The Italian secret to enduring one of their long, leisurely meals is the aperitivo, a light predinner snack accompanied by a glass of wine or amaro, a pleasantly bitter herbal liqueur. This food-and-drink combination both stimulates the appetite and helps prevent overindulging during the meal. Sommelier Joe Campanale discovered aperitivi while living in Italy and adopted the practice at his New York City restaurant, Dell’anima, which opened last year. He and chef Gabe Thompson host aperitivo hours in the late afternoon, serving complimentary snacks like bruschetta topped with peppery broccoli rabe pesto or lemony pureed chickpeas, and goat cheese–stuffed mushrooms with a crispy rosemary bread crumb topping. “Our goal is to serve simple food that has lots of flavor and doesn’t fill you up,” Campanale says. When selecting aperitivo-friendly drinks, he prefers bright, refreshing reds and whites—“The acidity gets me so hungry,” he says—or low-alcohol, amaro-based cocktails. “A pre-dinner drink shouldn’t kill your palate or weigh you down,” he says.
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