Ciao'd while sipping a Cherry Aperol Spritz.
When my great-grandmother turned her back, we snuck up on the simmering tomato sauce with chunks of crusty bread in hand. It was a speed game and we were in fine form: Dip, chew and swallow before the heat of the sauce seared our mouths. The speed game was only matched by the finesse game: Which one of the cousins could distract Zia while we crept up the stairs to the cold attic and pinched the cardaddate she was storing for Christmas Eve. Mind you, these deep-fried dough rosettes are covered with lemon-scented honey. Honey is sticky. It clings to lips and faces. How quickly finesse becomes sweet folly.
When you’re Italian, like me, food resides at the intersection of life. Birthdays, holidays, Sundays, any days. There is always a reason to get together and eat, talk, drink, eat, laugh, eat, drink, cry, eat, and eat some more. It is very much an Italian thing to wrench celebration and solace from food. Italian food blesses us with its simplicity and its vibrant, satisfying flavors. It's not fancy "cheffie" food. It's an easy-going exclamation of fresh ingredients entwined with what's on hand in the pantry. This is the kind of food that is simple enough to prepare just before you sit down to eat it. And, to my mind, that makes it even more alluring.
Life is complex and busy. Good food, especially Italian food, isn’t. Once it enchants your mouth, it lifts your soul. There’s nothing like a sprightly, basil-y bowl of tortellini al pesto, a strapping and juicy bistecca alla fiorentina (enough for two), or a crisp, lemony arugula salad to elicit laughter, camaraderie, and gratitude for the simple pleasures in life. Italians call this la dolce vita, the sweet life. Let’s toast to it!
CHERRY APEROL SPRITZ
This take on the classic Italian cocktail serves up big flavor without a lot of alcohol. In my book, this is implicit permission to drink more than one (or three). Aperol, an aromatic bitter orange aperitivo reminiscent of Campari but sweeter, never fails to conjure up images of Venice or Capri. It’s an easy drink to make. Keep the ingredients in your liquor cabinet so you can pour sips of la dolce vita for your friends.
Makes 1 cocktail
3 ounces Prosecco
2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce cherry liqueur, preferably Luxardo
1 splash club soda
Orange peel and a Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Fill a glass with ice. Pour in the Prosecco, Aperol, and cherry liqueur and add a splash of soda. Garnish with orange peel and a maraschino cherry. Saluti!