For those of you who have not traveled to Italy and/or a first time reader of this blog- secondo me (according to me;) one of the best inventions Italians have ever made in food and drink history is the art of Aperitivo. I originally touched on it in my aperitivo in Florence round-up and now I’m seeking it out in Seattle.
Meaning literally “to open up your stomach” and the habit originating from Milan, an Aperitivo serves to stimulate your appetite starting with a bitter based aperitif cocktail like an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni along with a buffet selection of light, salty snacks before heading off to dinner. The Italians are great not only because they are tragically chic and gave the world pizza and Chianti, but because they have a medicinal, practical reason for just about every alcoholic beverage. Aperitivo serves to help prime your stomach for the mind blowing dinner that will undoubtedly ensue. If you are in Seattle, albeit lacking the buffet mounds, there is no need to feel without it. Thanks to Seattle being so lucky with an explosively detailed food and drink scene, there are thankfully a handful of places to get an (or my) Aperitivo fix.
Here are my top 5 recommendations:
Artusi- A beautiful mother-in-law sequel of Jason Stratton’s Cascina Spinasse, Artusi is designed as an Italian cocktail with small bites bar and has one of the most extensive selection of bitters, amari to create skillful aperitifs, not to mention carefully selected Italian wines to match the food.
The brightly lit nook in Capitol Hill is where it’s at for a pre-meal craft Italian cocktail mixed smoothly with utterly traditional Italian bitters and amari I have only managed to find in the bel paese or ideal for a gut wrenching post-meal grappa. Drinks aside, the small bites are distinct and concise: cured meats, small pacific northwest inspired salads, artisan cheeses and tasty crostini.
Serafina Osteria and Enoteca- Want to get a feel of being in a stylish cocktail lounge in Manhattan with Italian flair? Serafina being no stranger to the Seattle food and drink enthusiasts black book, has got just the right amount of soul for a Prosecco and Aperol Spritz pitstop or a light, Italian beer, which is also something Italians tend to drink before a meal unless you intend on having a pizza which in that case the beer train would continue on. One note on the beer here is that they have managed to get their paws on Menabrea which is a brewery located in the Slow Food region of Piedmont and is a tried and true albeit lacking prestige in “craft” quality. At happy hour, Serafina’s has some flavorful twists on Italian finger foods like bruschetta with goats cheese and mint, or white bean spread accented with sweet and spicy peppers. Happy Hour runs till 6 and only at the bar- so beware.
La Spiga Osteria- Owned by Italians in the flesh, La Spiga has no-mercy for anything else but the traditional flavors and drinks from the motherland. The bar is well stocked and primed with the best wines and Italian spirits available on the international market and not to mention a lovely happy hour list to match which are undoubtedly inspired by the regions in which they originate, what I like to call the food lover’s heaven of the Emilia Romagna. When at La Spiga, you cannot miss their prosciutto di parma with a side of castelvetrano olives and a light, Aperitivo-friendly white wine according to the barkeep’s suggestion. Since to work here, I can imagine you must be an Italian expert, you can trust just about anything they serve to you.
Bar del Corso- In Florence, legend has it that the Negroni was invented there when Count Negroni smacked his fists on the bar and said “make me an Americano but without water, fill it with gin!” For a Negroni experience outside of Florence, Bar del Corso is where it is at. Ask an Italian who adores Aperitivo even with half a smile what their all-time favorite aperitivo is and they will most likely report “The Negroni.” Or maybe just the Florentines;) The place is also famed for their gorgeous pizzas which are a great segway and quite possibly may be the object of your appetite post-aperitivo.
Barolo- Located in South Lake Union, Barolo is solid for happy hour foods and Aperitivo drinks. Aperitivo drinks need not be always a bitter based cocktail but also a good glass of wine to hold up to the various flavors and salty foods that are typical to the Aperitivo “habit” such as a Pecorino from Le Marche, a Vermentino from Tuscany or a Falanghina from Campagnia. With one of these wines, I would not be able to miss their Polpo con Patate (Octopus with Potatoes) salad which is simply exquisite during the warmer months in Seattle. Otherwise, a light red and a small pasta portion shall suffice in most other months.
And there you have it. It is official. I am going through appetite wrenching withdrawals of my dear Florence. It’s dramatically tragic. And the only way I am remedying it is by seeking out the best Italian surrogates in Seattle until I can return to my bel paese.. The land of the REAL aperitivo. Non vedo l’ora!
In food and drink indulgence,
psssst. Want to paint the town red with me? I offer “aperitivo” style food and drink tours in both Seattle and Florence.