March 28, 2016 | By Tony Abou-Ganim
Midway through what had been a long and brutal winter, George was in desperate need of some dry desert heat and he knew just the cure. He grabbed an early flight to Las Vegas, rented a car and checked into the Venetian Hotel. After making a spa appointment at Canyon Ranch, he headed out to Red Rock for a much needed bicycle ride. It was a beautiful, sunny day with blue skies and a temperature in the high 70s, which was perfect for the 40-mile bike ride he had planned through the picturesque Red Rock Canyon.
Some four hours later, George was back in the car, returning to the hotel feeling invigorated, exhausted and very much looking forward to the soothing waters of the soaking tub and the healing hands of his masseuse. After his treatments, George felt extremely relaxed, revived and in serious need of fortification. One of his favorite restaurants, CARNEVINO by Mario Batali, was located inside the Venetian and served one of the best steaks he had ever had.
George walked into the busy bar and saw that both Adam and David were behind the stick. He secured an empty stool.
“George, good to see you my friend. Welcome back,” David greeted him. “Negroni?”
“You know me too well! A Negroni sounds wonderful but I might need something a little more refreshing to start with, because I’m a little parched,” George replied.
“Have you ever had an Aperol Spritz?” David asked. “Aperol is Campari’s little sister, and in a spritz, it is light and invigorating.”
“Sounds perfect. I’ll start with one of those,” George thankfully replied. “And I’ll take a look at a dinner menu also.” George found the drink to be wonderfully bright, slightly bittersweet, easy to drink and extremely refreshing.
“The Aperol Spritz is a wonderful drink. It is all the rage in Italy, especially in Venice,” the gentleman sitting next to him said, introducing himself as Francesco Lafranconi.
“So, George, what do you think?” David asked.
“Fantastic! I’ll have another and let me also get one for my friend, Francesco,” George answered.
“Thank you,” replied Francesco. “I worked as a barman in Venice years ago and we would sell thousands of Aperol Spritzes, especially in the summer.”
“Ready to order?” David inquired.
“Yes – I’ll start with the grilled octopus, followed by a half portion of Bucatini all’Amatrician. Then I’ll have the dry-aged, bone-in rib eye medium rare and a side of Cesare’s Tuscan Fries,” George ordered. “And one more of these wonderful Aperol Spritzes; and get Francesco another one also.”
“Thank you, but I have a dinner engagement to get to,” Francesco responded. “But if you really want to experience the wonders of the Aperol Spritz, you must experience Venice; and to truly experience Venice, you must visit the Hotel Cipriani. You need to go see my dear friend and bar manager, Walter Bolzonella, at the famous Gabbiano Bar inside the Cipriani Hotel. Tell him Francesco sent you.”
George finished his steak and had one last Spritz. He thanked David for his hospitality, paid the check and was ready for what was sure to be a very good night’s sleep. But once in bed, he could not stop thinking about this newly discovered libation and knew he would need to book a trip to Venice in the morning.
After a wonderful night’s sleep, George awoke with intoxicating thoughts of Venice. He packed up his things and headed to check out. George called his travel agent and was able to book a flight to Venice that evening! Flying all night, George arrived in Venice the following morning, where he checked into the Baglioni Hotel Luna. He took a short walk to Harry’s Bar to see Claudio and have a Bellini. After a quick visit and a delicious Bellini, George boarded Hotel Cipriani’s private water taxi for the speedy trip across the canal to the tip of Giudecca, where the hotel is located.
George arrived at the Hotel Cipriani, walked into the Gabbiano Bar and asked for Walter Bolzonella.
“I’m Walter,” acknowledged the gentleman behind the bar. “What can I do for you?”
“Ciao, Walter. Francesco from Las Vegas raved about your Aperol Spritz and I came here to try one,” George explained.
“I love Francesco! It will be my pleasure to make you one! We serve thousands of Aperol Spritzes in Venice every day. Aperol is a beautiful apéritif, which was invented in 1919 by the Barbieri Brothers in Padua. The light proof of the Aperol quenches your thirst on a beautiful sunny day like today and adds a bit of sweetness, with less alcohol than Campari.”
Walter served George the Aperol Spritz and he took a sip. “Delicious! I have never had one with a green olive as a garnish before,” George commented.
“Well, the olive is a classic garnish here in Venice and the Aperol Spritz is the perfect aperitivo to complement the saltiness from the olive, but watch out for the pit,” Walter warned.
“Fantastic,” George responded. “After your wonderful drink, I am ready for a hearty lunch. Do you have any suggestions?”
“I certainly do,” answered Walter. “Let me make you a reservation at Cip’s Club, which happens to have a beautiful view of Piazza San Marco, and you must try the carpaccio.”
George thanked Walter for everything and paid the check. “Grazie,” George said to all and headed out of the bar.
“Ciao! Please give Francesco my best!” replied Walter.
George headed over to Cip’s Club and ordered Carpaccio Classico Cipriani, followed by Strozzapreti Porcini Rosmarino e Tartufo nero, an amazing fresh pasta with wild mushrooms, rosemary and black truffles. He then had the Filetto di Branzino al forno, Limone e Finocchio, which tasted like it was just caught that morning. The food was delicious, especially when washed down with a couple more Aperol Spritzes. George paid the check and took the water taxi back to the hotel.
His thoughts on the ride back to the hotel consisted of excitement on sharing his newfound love of this amazing aperitivo with his friends and family, and the thought of future gatherings that would be celebrated with a beautiful Aperol Spritz.