Viva Italia

On March 17th Italy celebrated its 151st birthday! I love Italy (who doesn’t?) and have enjoyed travels through Venice, Florence and Modena. I often reflect on the authentic food enjoyed during these wanderlust moments when reviewing the (many) Italian restaurants Toronto has on offer.

Italy is famous for its aperitifs and has been influential in cocktail culture this year as Aperol and Campari based beverages have seen a growing popularity. A resurgence of the “Aperitivo moment!” I actually just reviewed a new restaurant on Queen West, Church Aperitivo Bar which specializes in these cocktails. I’ve always commented that I love “fads that endure,” like tootsie rolls, walking shoes and breathing. In the spirit of celebration I decided to invite a few of my work colleagues over for a Viva Italia tasting.

Aperol is Italy’s #1 spirit and has been growing in popularity in Canada since arriving one year ago! It is an orange liqueur derived from a secret recipe that has remained unchanged since its creation in 1919. I decided to serve up Aperol on the rocks (shot of Aperol over ice with a little bit of San Pellegrino and slice of Meyer lemon). My guests raved about this beverage and ravaged the entire bottle in a short hour. Smells like candy (this is a good thing).

Campari is a world renowned red Italian spirit, made with a unique secret blend of herbs and spices with orange rind as a predominant flavour (Italians and their secrets)! It is more bitter than Aperol and has less of a candy quality to it. I decided to serve the famous Negroni: a combination of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. This is a heavy hitter, sip wisely.

The final offering was my attempt at being a bit corny, showcasing Hail Caesars (a Canadian tomato-clam juice) tradition. Erin claims to create the best Caesars the world has ever seen. They were prepared with celery salt rim, ice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, vodka, Motts Clamato Juice and garnished with a Matt and Steve’s Extreme Bean.

My Viva Italia party couldn’t have come at a better time. It was my first official “patio party,” on March 22nd no less. Toronto has seriously been blessed with incredible summer weather earlier than any of us expected. *Raises Glass* So here is to a summer filled with endless tables of antipasto, cheese and slippery spaghetti. But most importantly, long afternoons sitting in the sun while watching your ice cubes slowly disappear into the evening.

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