Instead of the Romans simply crossing the Rubicon, they’re crossing the Atlantic in a welcome invasion of Chicago taste-buds. Not one, but two Roman pizzerias are bringing foccacia-like crusts to the Windy City — Bonci Pizzeria and Bar Cargo. In addition, Mariano’s has Lemoncocco, a coconut and lemon drink inspired by Roman street vendors, slyly placed in their “last-minute-pick-a-drink” check-out line.
While it has yet to be seen if these products will succeed in American markets, the current wave of Roman-inspired products is difficult to ignore. The next step would seemingly be a Roman cocktail craze, not unlike the mezcal shockwave that has bartenders reeling.
Stateside, its never been easier to drink like an Italian. Aside from wine and proseco, you could order a Negroni, a simple (but difficult to perfect) way to consume the ever-bitter, ever-spiced, ultra-red Campari. This aperitif was invented in 1860 and has remained a sippable staple ever since, particularly before a meal.
While any Campari concoction is fairly popular in Rome — an Americano and a simple spritz come to mind as well- because Romans, frankly, aren’t huge drinkers. Or at least, they don’t drink the way Americans do. Instead of changing an entire cocktail menu to revolve around aperol, however, it may be better for bars and restaurants to embrace the Roman way they drink.
I’m of course referring to aperitivo, which in a direct translation means “appetizer,” but in practice, encompasses so much more. It’s a particular trend among younger Italians, who don’t have hundreds to spend on wine but can indulge in great local food while sipping away.
The idea is simple: pay for a drink, maybe about 10 euros, depending on the establishment, and then get access to a grand buffet of food. In true Roman fashion, patrons take their time eating and socializing, enjoying their libation with a luxurious pacing Americans seem unable to grasp.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t, and we should! If craft cocktails and microbrews have revealed anything, it is that customers want to truly enjoy their drinks with upscale pub food — why would you ever sling back an IPA anyway? — and it’s lucrative to provide that service. Moreover, aperitivo doesn’t necessarily require brand new brick-and-mortar establishments; though food halls are booming downtown, any bar can provide a “happy hour” that incorporates the Roman traditions of Campari, great food, and long-form eating.