Drinking Italianish: Amaro Experimentation at Spigolo
As affordable, low-key eateries and bars keep sprouting up on the Upper East Side, the stereotype of a fussy, out of touch neighborhood is becoming less and less relevant. While Madison Avenue may still be a street best known for vending designer duds, if you head east of 3rd Avenue, you’ll find a great selection of reasonably priced places to eat and drink. The best part? Sipping spots in this residential area usually don’t yield long weight times.
Spigolo is a place that reaffirms the steady transformation of the Upper East Side from high-priced enclave to approachable dining space. This Italian restaurant is by no means cheap, but you can treat yourself to a large serving of garganelli pasta with sweet fennel sausage ragu and parmesan for $18, a fairly low price for a decadent dish. Meanwhile, the large plates (strip steak, salmon) are shy of $30 each, while the appetizers and salads are under $15.
I’ve eaten (and eaten, and eaten) plenty of Italian food, but until visiting Spigolo I’d never had a compelling, craft Italian cocktail. I firmly believe the Negroni is the most romantic cocktail on the planet, and I’ve entered a recent love affair with amari. I’d been thirsting for drinks that have the same aromatic, flavor mystique of the Negroni that can still appeal to my American palate. Luckily, Executive Chef Joey D’Angelo teamed up with Francis Verrall of The Gilroy to create a list of light, delicate drinks that will breathe a little Italy into a hot summer evening.
These cocktails are layered – don’t expect a formula of base spirit plus flavor agent plus liqueur. Instead, many of the cocktails combine multiple clear spirits with amaro, spices, and semi-sweet fruit. Take the Verrazano, a tart, garden fresh cocktail comprised of Greenhook Ginsmith’s beach plum gin liqueur, Cocchi Americano, Combier Liqueur D’Orange, St. George absinthe, and lemon. All of those ingredients have the potential to get lost in each other, but instead, they support each other quite nicely, leaving you with a drink that’s both sophisticated in flavor and easily enjoyed. The Negroni Bianco (an increasingly popular riff of the classic, I’m noticing), is another carefully made mixture that’s both whimsical and respectable: White Pike whiskey, Cocchi Americano, and Suze (a gentian amaro) create a cocktail that seems like what an American bootlegger vacationing on the Italian seaside would drink.
Spigolo’s drink list has a kind of contained chaos. There are several mysterious, exotic flavors to parse through, but an adventurous drinker yearning to try amari in a unique context. I recommend starting your journey with the Towers of Bologna, which is a little similar to the classic French 75 cocktail, comprised of Spring 44 gin, Amaro Montenegro, blueberry preserve, lavender, lemon, and club soda. This is a highly quaffable cocktail that milks the fruitiness of Amaro Montenegro to its advantage.
Remember, Italian cuisine is best enjoyed with an open mind and an empty stomach/primed liver. Embrace Spigolo’s wacky flavor mashups. See if you can find a new Negroni competitor of your own.
1471 2nd Avenue (btw 76th and 77th)
New York, NY 10028
Make reservations here.