What on earth is Aperitivi con Cicchetti? No need to google, let me tell you right now- it’s EVERYTHING that’s been missing from your life.
If you’ve been to Italy you’ll be familiar with the awesome cultural tradition of a cheeky drink with outrageously moreish nibbles before dinner; outside in the evening sun or in a bustling bar and always bloody good fun. Aperitivi drinks are generally on the bitter side and designed to stimulate your taste buds, making the enjoyment of a little Cicchetti (tasty finger foods) all the more pleasurable.
Post work, pre-meal is prime aperitivi o’clock. It’s the punctuation marking the end of the grafting and the start of the kicking back, and I fully embraced the opportunity to do just that when Baffled invited me to share their debut Aperitivi con Cicchetti evening on Fawcett Road.
Ferg and Rachael had created a lovely atmosphere at Baffled, candles were lit and it felt a bit magic slipping in out of the night to a lovely warm welcome. I went straight for the drinks menu, wildly excited to see Cynar Negroni listed, where Campari is replaced with a herbal bittersweet liqueur infused with artichoke. A great drink to offer and impressive in its authenticity, this style of liqueur is known as Amaro and was used for medicinal purposes during medieval times- further proof Aperitivi is damn good for the health! An Old Fashioned is a good test for a bartender’s skill, an uncomplicated recipe but easy to make unbalanced, and the drinks were spot on with clean flavours. I try an Espresso Martini everywhere I find it offered and it was rich, strong and served in a glass with good volume. I’m well over poxy thimble sized servings and I object to a drink that can be consumed in 2 sips- no one wants to spend the evening queuing at the bar when they can hang out with friends!
Baffled was full and buzzy and the vibe inclusive and energetic. I took up post at the standing bar which is always a preference for me as it encourages intimacy and conversation. I work internationally so draping myself over a bar surrounded by strangers is second nature and I could have been anywhere in Europe in that moment, such was the vibe the environment evoked.
Dishes and boards laden with beautifully made, authentic, regional Italian food came swirling out of the kitchen in a seemingly endless parade- highlighting the love and generosity at the root of the concept and culture. For Ferg, it’s the simple dishes which really inspire him: the Carciofo e olive (black olive tapenade with marinated artichoke crostini), the Baccala Mantecato (Venetian salt cod pate) and the anchovy stuffed deep-fried sage. My mouth is watering at the memory…. Ferg called in hookups from his old stomping ground at Carluccio’s for the sublime charcuterie; Finocchiona and ventricina salami and Parma ham, and much of the meat came from Arun Meat & livestock based in Hilsea food market, who work closely with local farms.
I’ve been assured Baffled have more aperitivi evenings up their sleeves and I can’t wait. I left the event with the particular case of warm and fuzzies you only get from good food, good company and impeccable aperitivi. Such hospitality and generosity: Ferg and Rachael absolutely nailed it.
By Laura The Southsea Wine Siren.