Under the Tuscan sun, we (re)discovered the joy of a midday cocktail as antidote to the high-noon heat of summer. On a tour through medieval hill towns, we found the ultimate in refreshment: the Aperol Spritz with its a shot of the citrusy aperitif topped off with Prosecco and garnished with an orange slice. The kinder (less alcoholic) kin of Campari, Aperol blends bitter orange and rhubarb with gentian and cinchona – both flowering plants – for a refreshingly fruity, mildly bitter mixer. After only one Spritz, we felt revived and ready to tour more churches and piazzas.
Our Aperol affair continues stateside with our love translated on our café cocktail menu. We suggest pairing the crimson cocktail with our new radicchio and fennel or tuna nicoise salads – both of which draw inspiration from the Italian approach to fresh vegetables. Take, for instance, the uber-easy hors d’oeuvre, pinzimonio, which plates fresh, raw veggies alongside a dipping bowl of olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. The key, of course, is excellent ingredients from crunchy fennel and pink radishes to cold-pressed olive oil. Clean and colorful, pinzimonio is the perfect platform for farmers’ market finds. One “recipe” we found suggests plating the vegetables over ice to ensure chilled freshness. While pinzimonio has yet to make an appearance on our menu, we encourage experimenting with this quintessential summer appetizer by stocking a variety of porch-ready platters from Falcon and Fieldstone and artisanal oils from Pasolivo. Don’t forget to pick up a baguette to sop up the remnants!