Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes - Talia Baiocchi, Leslie Pariseau (2016)

THE APERITIVO TABLE

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ADAPTED FROM Polpo, London, UK SERVES 6–8

One of Venice’s most traditional dishes, sarde in saor was—since at least the fourteenth century—a way to preserve fish for seamen making long voyages. Today it can still be found across the Floating City’s menus at every turn.

20 SMALL SARDINES, CLEANED AND GUTTED

2 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR

¼ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, PLUS 2 TABLESPOONS, DIVIDED

⅓ CUP PINE NUTS

4 LARGE YELLOW ONIONS, FINELY SLICED

SEA SALT

¾ CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

⅓ CUP RAISINS, SOAKED IN WATER OVERNIGHT AND DRAINED

TOASTED BAGUETTE OR RUSTIC ITALIAN BREAD

Place a wire rack in a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Toss the sardines in the flour and shake off any excess. In a large saucepan, heat the ¼ cup of oil over medium-high heat. Place the floured sardines into the oil and cook (frying in batches if needed) until golden on both sides. Place the fried sardines on the prepared wire rack.

In a small saucepan over low heat, toast the pine nuts, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large saucepan over medium-low heat and add the sliced onions. Sprinkle with salt and sweat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft, sweet, and translucent. Remove from the heat and pour enough white wine vinegar over the onions to fully submerge with extra liquid. Add the raisins and pine nuts.

In a large container with an airtight lid, spread some of the onion mix on the bottom. Add a layer of sardines and sprinkle with a little salt. Alternate adding layers of onion and sardines.

Seal the container and store in the refrigerator for 2 days to marinate (will keep for up to 5 days). When ready to serve, bring the sardine mixture up to room temperature and serve with freshly toasted bread.

Sarde in Saor

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The omnipresent Italian snack food, tramezzini are small crustless sandwiches made with white milk–based bread and stuffed with anything from tuna and hard-boiled eggs to porchetta and radicchio depending on the season and the region. Born in Turin in the 1920s—allegedly at the gilded Caffè Mulassano—tramezzini were the Italian answer to English tea sandwiches, made immediately more appealing by replacing vegetables with things like prosciutto and tea with alcoholic beverages.

Interestingly enough, the tiny sandwiches weren’t actually dubbed “tramezzini” until the 1930s, when writer and philosopher Gabriele D’Annunzio supposedly coined the word, which is meant to sound like a combination of triangolo (triangle), tra (between), and mezzo (middle). Milk-based bread was not traditionally prevalent in the Italian diet but became a café staple post World War II, thanks to American and English influences.

CAFFÈ FLORIAN’S TRAMEZZINI

INSPIRED BY those served at Venice’s iconic café on St. Marks Square. • MAKES 8

6 SLICES WHITE SANDWICH BREAD, CRUSTS REMOVED

¼ CUP MAYONNAISE

3 LARGE HARD-BOILED EGGS, THINLY SLICED

6 SLICES PARMA COTTO

Spread three slices of white bread with mayonnaise. Top 1 slice with a layer of egg slices. Place the second piece of bread, mayonnaise side up, on top, creating a new layer. Add a layer of parma cotto, and then place the last slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, on top of that. Slice into 4 triangles and assemble, 2 each, on a large skewer. Repeat with the remaining three bread slices, mayonnaise, egg, and parma cotto.

ITALIAN TUNA SALAD

MAKES 8

2 CANS UNSALTED ALBACORE TUNA LOIN IN OIL, DRAINED

4 CASTELVETRANO OLIVES, PITS REMOVED, FINELY CHOPPED

3 TABLESPOONS RED ONION, FINELY CHOPPED

1 TEASPOON LEMON ZEST

1 TABLESPOON FRESH LEMON JUICE

EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

ARUGULA

4 SLICES WHITE SANDWICH BREAD, CRUSTS REMOVED

In a large bowl, break up the tuna with a fork. Add the olives, red onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, and enough oil to coat (about ¼ cup). Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Arrange a few leaves of arugula on a slice of bread. Top with a few spoonfuls of tuna salad, and spread into an even layer. Add another layer of arugula and top with a second slice of bread. Slice into 4 triangles and assemble, 2 each, on a large skewer. Repeat with the remaining two bread slices, arugula, and tuna.

Tramezzini

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No matter what sort of establishment you wander into during aperitivo, salty snacks are always on offer, whether a basket of generic potato chips or an elaborate buffet that—excepting aperitivo etiquette—could easily double as dinner. The most satisfying spreads provide a few grazing options with high-quality ingredients and enough cushion to ward off a heavy buzz. This essential setup was inspired by aperitivo hour at the Hotel Bulgari in Milan, a modern resort hidden in an eighteenth-century palazzo surrounded by manicured gardens, where cocktails come with a pretty price tag but the snacks are bottomless and beautifully presented.

OVEN-ROASTED OLIVES

YIELD 2 cups

2 CUPS MIXED OLIVES (PREFERABLY CASTELVETRANO, KALAMATA, AND GAETA)

¼ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

ORANGE ZEST, GRATED

Heat the oven to 450˚F.

In a bowl, combine the olives and 3 tablespoons oil, then spread the olives evenly on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roast until just sizzling, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the orange zest over the top, toss to combine, and serve warm.

SAFFRON ALMONDS

YIELD 1 cup

1 TABLESPOON EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 SAFFRON THREADS

1 CUP MARCONA ALMONDS

Place oil and saffron threads in a saucepan over very low heat. Let sit, stirring occasionally, so the saffron releases its color and aroma into the oil.

In a separate saucepan, toast the nuts over medium heat until just golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Add the saffron oil, toss to coat, and serve warm.

HAND-CUT POTATO CHIPS

YIELD Approximately 6 cups

4 RUSSET POTATOES, WASHED, SCRUBBED, AND DRIED

4 CUPS CANOLA OR SAFFLOWER OIL, FOR FRYING

SEA SALT

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Using a mandoline, thinly slice the potatoes and drop them into the bowl to keep them from browning.

Strain the potato slices and layer them between paper towel sheets, pressing to soak up the water. Keep between paper towels until ready to fry.

Prepare a plate with dry paper towel sheets for the potato chips to rest on after frying.

Place oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet, and heat to 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer. Using a metal slotted spoon and working in small batches, carefully place the potato slices into the oil, frying until golden, 1 to 2 minutes for each batch. Scoop the finished chips out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place onto the paper towel–lined plate.

Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a paper bag alongside olives and nuts.

GRISSINI WITH PROSCIUTTO AND PICKLED RADICCHIO

ADAPTED FROM Polpo, London, UK • MAKES 20

¾ CUP WHITE WINE

¾ CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

4 JUNIPER BERRIES

20 RADICCHIO LEAVES

½ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

20 ITALIAN GRISSINI (SEE NOTE)

20 THIN SLICES OF PROSCIUTTO

In a saucepan, bring the white wine, white wine vinegar, and juniper berries to a boil over medium heat. When the liquid is bubbling, submerge the radicchio leaves and let boil for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the oil into an airtight container.

Remove the white wine mixture from the heat, remove the radicchio with tongs, and gently shake off any excess liquid. If making ahead of time, place the pickled leaves in the oil and store in the refrigerator until ready to use so that they retain their color and flavor. Drain the leaves of any excess oil before using.

Starting at the top of each grissini, wrap with a piece of prosciutto, and then wrap with a radicchio leaf. Repeat for all remaining breadsticks.

NOTE

Italian grissini, or breadsticks, can be purchased at Italian specialty stores or most whole grocers.

Apertivo Essenziale

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SERVES 4

The sandy lagoon islands surrounding Venice have the muddy soil ideal for growing the artichoke, especially the purple Sant’Erasmo variety. Sold at the bustling Rialto market and in the boats of floating green grocers, these thistles are bought whole by the pile or the already peeled fondi (artichoke bottoms), and most often prepared very simply, sautéed in a bit of olive oil and wine and finished with lemon.

1¼ CUPS COLD WATER, PLUS MORE IF NEEDED

2 LEMONS

12 SMALL ARTICHOKES

4 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

¼ CUP WHITE WINE

SALT, TO TASTE

2 TABLESPOONS CHOPPED PARSLEY

Add 1 cup water and the juice of 1 lemon to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Remove the dark green outer leaves of the artichokes, until you reach the inner pale green and yellow leaves. Peel the stalks and trim them to about 1 inch from the base. Cut the tops off and cut each artichoke into quarters. Immediately transfer to the lemon water to avoid browning.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the artichoke quarters and reduce the heat to medium, frying them until just golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes, and then add the remaining ¼ cup water, reduce the heat to low and cover. Allow the artichokes to cook for about 15 minutes, or until fork-tender. If the artichokes begin to dry out before they are tender, add more water. Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and squeeze half of a lemon over the top. Season with salt to taste, and garnish with a pinch of chopped parsley. Serve with toothpicks to skewer.

Carciofi Alla Veneziana

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TERRONI, Los Angeles, CA • MAKES 6-8 skewers

Spiedino—the diminutive of spiedo, meaning “spit” or “skewer”—most often refers to a meatball that has been skewered and cooked. It’s essentially the toothpick-lanced cocktail meatball of Italy. This summer-ready version reimagines the toothpick snack, Venetian style, where skewers and paper cones of fresh seafood, herbs, and citrus can be found at stalls lining the Rialto market each morning. Shrimp and octopus are readily available at most seafood counters, but squid, lobster, and thick cubes of fish would work in this recipe as well.

½ CUP BREAD CRUMBS

1 GARLIC CLOVE, FINELY CHOPPED

2 TABLESPOONS FINELY CHOPPED PARSLEY

1 TEASPOON SALT

WOODEN SKEWERS

½ POUND CHERRY TOMATOES

1 POUND LARGE SHRIMPS, PEELED AND DEVEINED

1 POUND CALAMARI CHOPPED INTO 2-INCH PIECES

2 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL

LEMON WEDGES

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs with garlic, parsley, and salt.

Assemble each skewer with a cherry tomato, a shrimp, and a piece of calamari. Repeat once more.

Sprinkle each skewer with the bread crumb mixture, and shake off any excess. Place on a plate in the refrigerator and let marinate for 30 to 45 minutes.

Prepare a grill to medium heat. Brush with olive oil. Place skewers on the grill for about 2 minutes on each side, or until shrimp is pink and calamari is curled.

Alternatively, add olive oil to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place skewers in cast iron skillet for about 2 minutes on each side, or until shrimp is pink and calamari is curled.

Serve with the lemon wedges.

Spiedini Di Mare

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The folklore about crostini’s origins holds that before there were individual serving dishes, there were slabs of bread that were often soaked in oil and other cooking liquids to help relieve staleness. When served at the table, they were heaped with whatever was for dinner, and used as a sort of edible plate. Consider the crostini a sort of archaic predecessor to the modern bread bowl.

These combinations are simply jumping-off points for making your own “little toasts.” In Venice, baccalà mantecato (whipped cod) is a popular crostini topper, as are all means of artichokes, lagoon-grown vegetables. chicken livers, and any combination of meat and cheese. We were most inspired by the sea of toast options—that, en masse, appear rather like Italian sushi—presented at Al Timon, a canal-side bacaro that awakens right as the sun begins to descend.

FRESHLY BAKED, CRUSTY BREAD (LIKE BAGUETTE OR RUSTIC ITALIAN), SLICED CROSSWISE

EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

CROSTINI TOPPINGS

Brush the bread slices with the oil, and toast or grill over medium heat until golden. Spread crostini topping on the toasted bread, assemble on a platter, and serve.

SAGE AND WHITE BEANS

MAKES 1 cup

2 ½ TABLESPOON EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

6 SAGE LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED OR CANNED WHITE BEANS, DRAINED

1 SMALL CLOVE GARLIC, FINELY CHOPPED

ZEST OF HALF A LEMON

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Using tongs, place the sage leaves into the oil and fry for 5 seconds on each side. Place on a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

In a separate bowl, add beans, garlic, lemon zest, and 1½ tablespoons of olive oil. Mash the beans into the oil until they make a rough paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, spoon the mixture onto toasted bread and top with a fried sage leaf.

HAZELNUT PESTO AND ROASTED TOMATOES

MAKES about 1½ cups

¾ CUP HAZELNUTS

2 CUPS FRESH BASIL LEAVES

½ CUP FRESH PARSLEY

3 CLOVES GARLIC

1 TABLESPOON SALT, PLUS MORE TO TASTE

¾ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, PLUS MORE FOR COATING TOMATOES

¾ CUP PARMESAN

PEPPER, TO TASTE

ZEST OF 1 LEMON

2 CUPS CHERRY TOMATOES

Heat the oven to 375°F. Place the hazelnuts on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roast for about 5 minutes, or until the nuts brown and the outer skin starts to break. Remove from the oven and transfer to a clean kitchen towel to cool. Roll the nuts up inside the kitchen towel and roll them back and forth to loosen the skins, removing any remaining skins by hand; set aside.

Add the hazelnuts, basil, parsley, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. While the processor is running, add the ¾ cup of oil slowly, working in batches if necessary, until smooth. Add the parmesan and lemon zest, and blend. If the mixture is too dry, add more olive oil until the texture is that of a smooth and spreadable paste.

Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Lightly coat the tomatoes in oil and spread them evenly on the parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roast, tossing at least once, until the tomatoes are blistered and beginning to burst, about 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let cool.

Spread each toast with a layer of pesto, top with two tomatoes, and sprinkle with salt.

CHICKEN LIVER PÂTÉ

ANTHONY SASSO Casa Mono, New York City, NY MAKES about 2½ cups

2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 SHALLOT, FINELY CHOPPED

2 CUPS CHICKEN LIVERS (SEE NOTE)

SALT, TO TASTE

4 SPRIGS THYME, LEAVES ONLY

½ CUP PEDRO XIMENEZ SHERRY

1 CUP HEAVY CREAM

½ CUP CHICKEN STOCK

1 TABLESPOON HIGH-QUALITY BALSAMIC VINEGAR

ZEST OF 1 LEMON

In a low-sided pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the livers (drained) and turn the heat to high. Season with salt and thyme leaves and cook for about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the sherry. Deglaze the livers, allowing the liquid to reduce by half, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cream and chicken stock. Cook for about 5 minutes, or just until the livers are cooked through but not tough. Add the balsamic.

Using a ladle and working in batches, spoon the cooked livers into a blender with just enough cooking liquid to create a puree resembling the consistency of creamy peanut butter. Then pour into a very fine mesh sieve and push the meat with the back of the ladle until all of the juice is gone. Continue in batches until all of the livers are pureed and pressed. Discard any extra liquid. Season the livers with more salt and refrigerate for about 1 hour before using.

Spread each toast with a generous layer of chicken livers, top with lemon zest, and serve.

PREPARING CHICKEN LIVERS

Remove each lobe from the center vein and place them in a bowl filled with milk for at least 1 hour before using. Sometimes the livers are sold pre-soaked in milk; this simply neutralizes some impurities.

RICOTTA, PROSCIUTTO, AND FRESH SEASONAL FRUIT

MAKES 6–8 crostini

½ CUP RICOTTA CHEESE

6 SLICES PROSCIUTTO

FIGS, STRAWBERRIES, OR OTHER SEASONAL FRUIT, SLICED

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

HIGH-QUALITY BALSAMIC VINEGAR (OPTIONAL)

Spread 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese on a piece of toast. Top with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of fruit. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the top.

BACCALÀ MANTECATO AND HOT RED PEPPER

MAKES 6–8 crostini

½ CUP BACCALÀ MANTECATO

1 TEASPOON DICED HOT CHERRY PEPPERS MARINATED IN OIL (SEE NOTE)

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

Spread 1 tablespoon of baccalà on a piece of toast. Top with a scant ⅛ teaspoon of hot peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

NOTE

Cento and Sclafani are the most widely available, but there are better Italian options at any whole grocer.

ARUGULA, MOZZARELLA, AND CURED ANCHOVY

MAKES 6–8 crostini

½ CUP ARUGULA

6 OUNCES FRESH MOZZARELLA, SLICED CROSSWISE

6 TO 8 CURED WHITE ANCHOVIES

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

Top each slice of toast with a few leaves of arugula, a slice of mozzarella, and 1 anchovy. Season with salt and pepper.

ARTICHOKES AND FRIED PANCETTA

MAKES 6–8 crostini

¼ CUP OLIVE OIL

6 TO 8 SLICES PANCETTA

6 TO 8 SMALL ARTICHOKES, CLEANED, HALVED AND SAUTÉED

PEPPER, TO TASTE

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, warm the oil until simmering. Add the pancetta (in batches if necessary) and sautée until crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool on a paper towel–lined plate.

Top each slice of toast with an artichoke and a slice of pancetta. Season with pepper.

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BACCALÀ MANTECATO

MAKES 1¾–2 cups

The story of how Norwegian stockfish ended up as one of Venice’s favorite ingredients begins with a fifteenth-century shipwreck and ends with the Venetians’ love for all things aquatic. In 1431, when Venetian ship captain Pietro Querini and his crew were sailing for Bruges, they were shipwrecked in the Lofoten Islands of Norway. On that subpolar archipelago, Querini observed the local method of preserving cod by letting it dry in the wind on trellises, and then tenderizing it “with the back of knives until it becomes as thin as nerves.” When returning to Venice, Querini brought the stockfish with him. The fish is still imported and made to this day into baccalà mantecato— a creamy spread served on polenta or toast. The word baccalà was adapted from the Portuguese word for salt cod, bacalao.

12 OUNCES DRIED STOCKFISH

½ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER, TO TASTE

Place the stockfish in a large pot with a lid, cover with water, and soak overnight. Bring the stockfish and the water to a boil over high heat, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and break up the cod in a bowl, removing any bones. While the cod is still hot, begin whisking quickly while drizzling oil in slowly. Cod will begin to take on a whipped texture after much whisking. You may need more or less oil depending. Add salt and pepper, spread on the toast, and serve.

Crostini

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INSPIRED BY Ratanà, Milan • SERVES 6–8

Most Americans know meatballs via the southern Italian tradition, filtered through decades of appropriation to combine some permutation of ground meat and red sauce. But in northern Italy, the meatball has an entirely different personality born of a peasant dish, or piatto povero, picked up from the sixteenth-century Spaniards that dominated Milan.

1 POUND VEAL OR BEEF SHANK

1 CARROT, PEELED AND ROUGHLY CHOPPED

1 MEDIUM YELLOW ONION, ROUGHLY CHOPPED

1 CLOVE GARLIC, ROUGHLY CHOPPED

¼ CUP FINELY GRATED GRANA PADANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

2 EGGS

1 PINCH NUTMEG

1 CUP TORN STALE BREAD, SOAKED IN ¼ CUP MILK FOR 10 MINUTES

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

1 CUP BREAD CRUMBS

¼ CUP OLIVE OIL, PLUS MORE IF NEEDED

Place the veal or beef shank in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, skimming any fat that rises to the top. Add the carrot, onion, and garlic. Keep at a low simmer and cook until fork-tender, 1½ to 2 hours.

Drain, reserving the broth for risotto or another dish. After the meat has cooled, shred by hand or with two forks, discarding any fat or bones. Add the shredded meat to a food processor with the cooked vegetables and pulse a few times to break up the mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine the meat mixture with the cheese, 1 egg, the nutmeg, and the soaked bread. Season with salt and pepper.

Roll the meat into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. Whisk the remaining egg in a shallow dish. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow dish. Dip the meatballs into the whisked egg and coat in bread crumbs.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. In batches, fry the meatballs, turning to brown until golden on all sides. Place on a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

Mondechili

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MAKES 8

In the Campo San Giacomo Rialto of Venice’s San Polo neighborhood is Osteria Bancogiro, a young establishment with a deceitfully ancient facade, where spritzes con Select (Venice’s favorite red bitter) and half a dozen plates of crostini dot every counter and table. This recipe is an adaptation from one of Bancogiro’s seasonal cicchetti options built from the broad, circular fondi, or bottoms, of artichokes, topped with creamy, fresh mascarpone cheese and a single oily anchovy.

3 CUPS COLD WATER

JUICE OF 1 LEMON

8 ARTICHOKES

2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 CLOVE GARLIC, FINELY CHOPPED

4 OUNCES MASCARPONE

8 CURED ANCHOVIES

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

Combine water with the lemon juice in a bowl. Cut the stem off of each artichoke, and using a sharp knife, peel away the outside layer of leaves in a circular motion. Cut off a thin slice at the base of each artichoke to remove the tough end, and then cut off a slice, half an inch thick—this is the artichoke bottom. Allow bottoms to soak in the lemon water until ready to cook to avoid browning.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic. Remove the artichoke bottoms from the lemon water and pat dry. Place the artichoke bottoms in the pan and sauté quickly. Add enough water so the bottoms are covered and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and dry.

While the artichoke bottoms are still warm, spread a layer of mascarpone cheese on each bottom, and top with an anchovy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fondi Di Carciofi

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SERVES 6–8

Polenta has been made in Italy since Roman times, when grain was coarsely milled and churned into porridge or hardened bread. Before it became an heirloom staple at Whole Foods, it was a functional food rather than a stylish one, rounding out the diets of Italian peasants. Across northern Italy, it’s still made in copper pots via vigorous, continuous stirring, and often served as a sort of cornbread toast piled with baccalà or seafood in Venice, or sausage and onions in the Alto Adige. During Roman times, it was made with primitive grains like spelt and millet, morphing into the yellow or white corn variety when maize was brought back from the New World.

In this version, leftover minced meat and bread are soaked in milk and then combined with cheese and egg, rolled into balls, coated with breadcrumbs, and fried. This recipe comes from a restaurant in the Porta Garibaldi neighborhood of Milan.

2 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER, PLUS MORE, FOR GREASING

6 CUPS WATER

1 TABLESPOON SALT

2 CUPS YELLOW CORNMEAL (POLENTA GRAIN)

1 TABLESPOON OLIVE OIL (OPTIONAL)

TOPPINGS

Butter a large sheet pan.

In a large pot, bring the water to a simmer and add the salt. Stir in the cornmeal a bit at a time, stirring with each addition. Stir continuously for the next 15 to 20 minutes or until the cornmeal reaches the consistency of thick pudding. Add the 2 tablespoons butter, stir, and spread the cornmeal onto the buttered sheet pan. Let cool and solidify, about 30 minutes.

Once the polenta has cooled, cut into small squares. Grill or quickly sear in a saucepan with the oil before composing polenta squares, if desired. Add either of the toppings on next page, then serve.

LARDO-WRAPPED SHRIMP

MAKES 1 cup

1 TABLESPOON EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

8 LARGE SHRIMP, SHELLED AND DEVEINED

¼ POUND LARDO, VERY THINLY SHAVED INTO SMALL SQUARE SHEETS

1 TABLESPOON SPRING ONIONS, FINELY CHOPPED

In a small frying pan, over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink and curled, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool.

Set the oven to broil. Wrap each shrimp in a sheet of lardo. Top the polenta squares with wrapped shrimp, and sprinkle with the spring onions. Place the composed polenta squares on a sheet pan and broil for 30 seconds or until the lardo melts over the shrimp. Set aside to cool slightly, then serve.

SAUSAGE AND ONION

MAKES 1½ cups

2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 LARGE YELLOW ONION, THINLY SLICED

SALT AND PEPPER, TO TASTE

½ POUND SWEET ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE LINKS, COOKED AND THINLY SLICED

In a medium frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and stir to coat with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir occasionally until the onions is soft, translucent, and sweet, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Top each polenta square with 1 tablespoon of caramelized onions and 2 slices of the sausage, then serve.

Polenta

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CRANBERRY SHRUB

YIELD Approximately 2 cups

1 CUP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

1 CUP WATER

1 CUP SUGAR

½ CUP FROZEN CRANBERRIES

Add apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, and frozen cranberries in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved, crushing the cranberries occasionally to release their juices. Cool, strain, bottle, and refrigerate for up to one month.

GINGER SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 1 cup

½ CUP FRESH GINGER JUICE

½ CUP SUGAR

Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan over very low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

GRAPE SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 1½ cups

2 CUPS PURPLE, SLIPSKIN GRAPES LIKE CONCORD OR CABERNET SAUVIGNON

1 CUP SUGAR

1 CUP WATER

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Crush and muddle the grapes and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain, bottle, and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

HONEY SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 1½ cups

1 CUP HONEY

½ CUP WATER

Combine the honey and water in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir until the honey is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

LEMON SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 1¼ cups

1 CUP FRESH LEMON JUICE

1 CUP SUGAR

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to for up to one month.

RASPBERRY SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 2 cups

1 CUP RASPBERRIES

2 CUPS SUGAR

1 CUP WATER

In a saucepan, crush and muddle the raspberries. Add the sugar and water and heat over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Be careful not to boil, so the raspberries do not burn. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain, bottle, and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

SIMPLE SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 1¼ cups

1 CUP SUGAR

1 CUP WATER

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to for up to one month.

VANILLA SYRUP

YIELD Approximately 1¼ cups

1 CUP SUGAR

1 CUP WATER

1 VANILLA BEAN

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Split open the vanilla bean with a small knife and scrape the contents into the pan; add the bean pod. Turn the heat on low and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain, bottle, and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

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First, thank you to Ten Speed Press—especially Kelly and Aaron—for letting us write so many words on such a seemingly obscure topic. Thank you to our friends and photographers Dylan + Jeni for being the wonderful human beings that you are—and for bringing this book to life. Thank you Matthew Allen for your incredible patience and illustration skills. Thank you to our designer, Margaux Keres, for putting all the pieces together with grace.

To Tony Biancosino and Ashley Santoro, for stuffing yourselves into cars, trains, AirBnBs, and airplanes with us, drinking all the wine and spritzes with us, and generally making us better, more easygoing people.

To Alex Day, Natasha David, and Proprietors LLC, for the endless advice, the space, the recipes, the emergency pebble ice, the last-minute mint, and your constant generosity. You’ve saved our asses more than once.

To Katie Parla, for the guidance, the translation, the testing, and the generous amount of Italian knowledge you have shared with us, and the world. There’s no one else we’d like to travel through Italy with more than you.

To Kathryn Bangs and the teams at Sydell Group and The Line Hotel. To Dan Sabo and the team at the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles. To Jim Kearns, Hanna Lee, and the teams at Happiest Hour for letting us saber prosecco in your bar and squeeze citrus in your bathroom. And to Max Stefanelli and the Terroni team, thank you for letting us take over your kitchen, your bar, and your restaurant. Your enthusiasm and generosity was beyond anything we expected. And your Aperol Betty is tops.

To Elizabeth Colton, Vito Casoni and everyone at M Booth and Campari Gruppo. Thank you for your support and generosity.

To Fulvio Piccinino, who has been an invaluable resource and friend to us throughout this process. Your kindness and knowledge know no bounds.

And last but not least, thank you to all of the people who lent their shaking skills, brains, and/or elbow grease to this book: Roberto Bava, Greg Best, Dario Comini, Dom Costa, Rachel Erdman, Rachel Black, Roberto Pasini, Guido Zarri, Lucca Picchi, Nino Perrone, Alan Tardi, Leonardo Leuci, Giorgio Fadda, Jim Meehan, David Wondrich, Polpo London, Mario Piccinin, Eric Seed, Maurizio Stocchetto, Ingrid Williams, Anthony Sasso, and many more.

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MILAN

BAR BASSO • The bar where the Negroni Sbagliato was born, Bar Basso is the best place to observe the Milanese milieu from fashion designers to elderly sweater-vested men, all while drinking from a flower vase–sized, hand-cut glass.

BULGARI HOTEL • One of the many designer hotels peppered throughout Italy’s capital of fashion, the stunning Bulgari Hotel is hidden behind a grove of lush gardens in a ritzy neighborhood. Aperitivo here is simple, modern, and best enjoyed on the terrace.

CAMPARINO • Housed in the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the Camparino bar is ground zero for Milan’s original bitter liqueur, Campari. Here, the Milano-Torino can be had in its original glory.

CERESIO 7 • This scene-y rooftop pool and bar will require a reservation, but once in, it’s a thoroughly entertaining affair. Avant-garde cocktails, excellent snacks, and spritzes flow at the flashy bar whose guests are equally gilded.

TURIN

BANCO VINI E ALIMENTI • This little market-café specializes in oddball wines and Italian beer, but the spritzes are made with Mauro Vergano’s culty Americano aperitivo, and can be paired with exceptional charcuterie and cheese boards.

CAFFÉ MULASSANO • Supposedly the birthplace of the tramezzini sandwich, Caffé Mulassano presides in one of Turin’s glittering 19th-century arcades and feels as if it’s stuck—thankfully—in the city’s first era of coffeehouses and vermouth drinkers.

VENICE

ALL’ ARCO • This lunchtime-only spot is hidden on a side street underneath an old archway. Specializing in seafood-driven ciccheti, All’ Arco dispenses everything from bacalà to langoustines alongside spritzes.

AL TIMON • Al Timon is one of Venice’s greatest examples of the aperitivo tradition as experienced by locals. Tucked into the Canareggio neighborhood, Al Timon is a cantina bursting at the seams with residents who line up to order crostini and spritzes by the dozen.

AL MERCA • Though it’s most notable for natural wines, Al Merca captures the spritz life in its most modern incarnation. Nightly, crowds of young Venetians line up at this tiny counter for wine and spritzes, and then spread out onto the piazza.

CAFFé FLORIAN • This 18th-century café sprawling across St. Mark’s Square maintains all its ancient charm, from the velvet booths to the suited waiters bearing trays of spritzes and snacks. Morning to midnight, it buzzes with locals and tourists alike seeking a bit of la dolce vita.

OSTERIA BANCOGIRO • An unassuming café-restaurant in Venice’s Rialto neighborhood, Bancogiro has a large patio and an excellent selection of cicchetti including traditional polenta and crostini topped with everything from seafood to fresh cheese.

BAR TIEPOLO AT THE WESTIN EUROPA & REGINA • Manned by longtime bartender Giorgio Fadda, this hotel den is a quiet respite for the international traveler seeking a bit of luxury away from Venice’s tourist-filled streets. All of the Italian classics—spritzes to Negronis—can be found here, as well as enlightening conversation should Fadda be on hand.

PADUA

CAFFÉ PEDROCCHI • While it certainly isn’t the cheapest place to grab a spritz in Padua, it’s among the most famous. Expect plenty of marble, red velvet, and a solid aperitivo setup at this café that dates to 1831.

CORTE SCONTA • A tiny pocket square of a bacaro that is practically the opposite of Pedrocchi’s gilded old-school scene. Young and buzzy, the tiny no-frills bar is packed to the gills nightly with locals spilling out onto the street from the tiny counter with plates of cichetti, spritzes in hand.

TREVISO

BOTEGON • One of the city’s most beloved aperitivo bars, frequented by twentysomethings and octogenarians alike, particularly thanks to the excellent selection of traditional Trevisano cicchetti and fried foods.

TRIESTE

EPPINGER CAFFÉ • While this historic spot specializes in sweets, Eppinger turns into one of the most popular spots for a spritz and savory snacks come happy hour.

GRAN MALABAR • A tiny bar focused on Friulian wine (not surprisingly) and classic, no-frills rebechin, which are essentially Trieste’s take on classic Venetian cicchetti.

SALUMARE • A sleek, modern “fish laboratory”—this tiny spot doles out rebechin featuring everything from smoked to spreadable fish alongside sparkling wines and, of course, spritz.

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TALIA BAIOCCHI (right) is the editor-in-chief of Punch and the author of James Beard Award–nominated Sherry. She has written for Bon Appétit, Saveur, and many more. She lives in Brooklyn.

LESLIE PARISEAU (left) is the former deputy editor of Punch. She has written for the New York TimesGQEsquire, and Saveur. She lives in Brooklyn.