“Dude, dude. We got a situation,” Davide said to me, meaning only one thing.
I had just felt the first rumble of my stomach and was so excited he was hungry, too. I sunk to one knee and did a fist pump.
It was a hot afternoon in the Veneto and we were at his parents. They were taking a nap and it was the perfect moment to sneak out of the house and hit the bar next door for a classic aperol spritz.
This amazing concoction is something I had never tried until I met Davide. Growing up, all the Neapolitan dudes that I knew like my dad and uncles made their wine at home and while we all ate and drank like pigs at mealtimes, there was no concept of the aperitivo that came from Northern Italy.
You could sort of think of the apertivo as a cocktail hour, that starts around five, but when you start thinking about the spritz, which is so much more than a cocktail, and the snacks go along with it, then you’re hitting upon what makes Venice what it is.
Three main factors are needed for a soul blasting spritz:
2. Soda water
3. Aperol, Campari, or Select (any of these dry alcoholic aperitifs will do)
Percentage parts of these three vary from town to town or bartender to bartender or day to day.
A good spritz that I find ben caricato (fully charged) has two parts prosecco, 1 aperol, just a splash of water and shitload of olives in it. I like it not too sweet so I can eat tons of savoury goodies, known as Venetian cicchetti. Things like fried fish, salted cod puree, zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies, fried mozzarella, and crostini slathered with gorgonzola and radicchio. (God, I’m so hungry while typing this, I want to eat my hand.)
The drink has become popular over the world, but it is quintessentially a Venetian drink. You walk around Venice and anywhere in the Veneto and all places, even a little hole in the wall bar, will make you a spritz. The spritz came about in the early part of the 19th century when Venice was under the Austrian Hapsburg rule. The Austrians weren’t used to the strong prosecco so they’d ask to splash (spritzen) some water into it. The drink has evolved over the centuries and once carbonated soda came about and the aromatic apertifs like Campari, Aperol and Select it became the perfect Venetian drink.
Oddly, the best spritz I’ve ever had was not in Venice, but in New York City, made by my friend Giovanni Bartocci at the Roman-Italian restaurant Via della Pace in the East Village.