Monday, August 5, 2013

Aperitivo! A Vegan Summer's Eve Treat, NYC style

With our hearts full of longing for Italy (that's just a constant in my life), and a celebratory mood in the air (I start a new job next week!), Ketch and I decided to make an aperitivo a few evenings ago, before our 8:30pm dinner plans at Bareburger.

Traditionally an aperitivo is made up of cocktails, beer, prosecco, wine, etc. and light snacks ranging from olives, tiny panini, pizzette, focaccia, olives, chips, peanuts, tiny pearl onions & carrots, etc. It's meant to give you a little something to whet your appetite and hold you over for the standard 8/9pm Italian dinner. 

My cousin's restaurant, K2, in Rapallo (near Portofino, Italy) holds the unofficial title of Best Aperitivo in the whole Italian Riviera. K2's aperitivo consists of towers of delectable treats including pizzette (mini pizzas), focaccia, caponata (a veg-friendly Sicilian eggplant dish), substantial little tramezzini (sandwiches), flavorful Sicilian olives, and more. Also, it's endless. It's not like you just get 1 treat tower and Basta! (that's it). They are so generous with their constantly-refilled aperitivo towers that often Ketch and I wouldn't have any room left for dinner! 

Also, K2 makes a wide range of amazing cocktails, and they always left us with a warm happy buzz. My two favorites are Fragolino (fresh puréed strawberries, vodka, and prosecco) and Spritz. Spritz hails from Venice and is generally made with Aperol, soda, prosecco, plus a couple of splashes of grenadine. Its vibrant red/orange color is super pretty and its extra-tasty when garnished with orange slices. A bit sweet, refreshing, with a nicely contrasted bitter bite. 

Ketch crafted our Spritz cocktails last night and they were spot on. One sip and I was immediately transported back to our favorite table at K2, surrounded by the din of other restaurant-goers and my cousins yelling loudly while working hard to make sure everyone was fed, watered, and full of joy. Flashes of those stunningly clear blue waters crashing against the roots of the mountains, palm trees everywhere, and my wonderful family filled my head and heart.


I headed to our local Italian grocer in the Upper East Side, Agata e Valentina, for their Olives Conzata. They are my favorite olives, green and fresh and juicy, covered in flavorful herbs and delicious olive oil. A friend from Rome confirmed they are the best olives he's had outside of Italy. Ketch poured out some mini pretzels into one of our cute bowls, broke out the gluten free herbed flatbreads, and put out a pitcher of ice-cold water with slices of lemon and cucumber. I added organic dried figs that I'd just purchased from Eately, this awesome Italian market near the Flatiron, to our sweet little spread.

I then quickly chopped up a summer bruschetta - radish, cucumber (from Nonno's garden), cherry tomato, basil (from Nonno's garden), and organic fresh parsley. I drizzled it with our extra-virgin cold press olive oil, and topped it with fresh ground sea salt and black pepper - che deliziosa!

We also finished off our can of Paprika Pringles, recently brought to us by one of Ketch's coworkers who travelled to Italy. I know Paprika Pringles are chemical-ly and not Italian or natural in any shape way or form, but the Paprika flavor is only carried in Europe and they have been one of my favorite snacks since I visited ten years ago. I always bug friends and family who are going to Europe to bring me back a can, and I savor each crunchy salty paprika-y chip. 

Our little aperitivo pales in comparison to K2's veritable smorgasbord, but it still was a special treat. It made the fading memories from last year's European adventure feel bright and crisp. And of course, it did keep us perfectly full until our dinner later on that evening.