story & photo by Sara Liner
Sessions, cocktails, and spritzers—light sippers that won’t leave you too tipsy before the first course arrives— are not a new concept. In fact, having a low-proof cocktail or two before dinner, a.k.a. an aperitivo, has been an Italian tradition for over two centuries. Aperitivos are meant to stimulate the appetite, ease you gently into an evening of wining and dining, or just accompany a low-key, low-impact afternoon with friends.
With this in mind, Joe Harris, executive chef of Cucina Verona, an Italian eatery in Fort Bragg, whose menu boasts selections of Old World classics with a seasonal Californian spin, has created a low-proof cocktail menu. It features amari, vermouths, and liqueurs from Italy like Aperol (Campari’s less bitter cousin) and Carpano Antica (the O.G. sweet vermouth, herbal and port-like) as well as those from small-batch Californian makers like Quady Vineyard’s Deviation and Vya vermouths, and Tempus Fugit liqueurs.
The atmosphere at Cucina Verona is inviting. If looking for a more casual experience, one can always sit at the warmly lit osteria (bar) and chat it up with one of their friendly bartenders. Or if you’d like an intimate night out, the elegant ristorante (dining room) features live dinner music and attentive service. They also offer ten local microbrews on tap and a wine list that showcases Mendocino County and regional Italian varietals.
We think Cucina Verona’s “Love, Italian Style,” with its lightly tart and floral notes, is the perfect spritzer for summer. The infusions of damiana flower and rose geranium from the Quady Deviation, and the rose essence from the Fentimans, are said to have an aphrodisiac effect. Saluti!
Love, Italian Style
2 oz Vya Dry Vermouth
2 oz Quady Deviation
2 oz Fentiman’s Sparkling Rose Lemonade
Combine ingredients over crushed ice in yourfavorite glass, stir 3 times for luck.