At this cozy, dimly lit restaurant bar on NE Alberta ST, gin martinis are stirred, period. Vodka martinis (which, according to head bartender Christopher Abbott and many other orthodox cocktailians, don’t really count as martinis) are always shaken. And just about every signature cocktail here constitutes a subtle twist on the classics. But in line with the culinary philosophy of chef and owner Vito DiLullo, the twist tastes very Italiano—as in unique ingredients that hail from the home of bitter Campari and sweet Nocello.
Plenty of diners, in fact (despite the laws of the true martini), seem to prefer a Ciao Vito Martini—a little limoncello, a little Mezzaluna vodka and a wee dram of Cinzano Bianco vermouth—to a glass of chianti. Before digging into pappardelle with wild boar Bolognese, an equally wintry La Firenza—a Maker’s Mark manhattan spiked with a curiously fruity myrtleberry liqueur from Italy known as Tremontis—seems somehow appropriate.
In many ways, it’s a combination of the way the names of these concoctions fall off the tongue and the pleasant way the drinks themselves fall onto the tongue that inspires the assorted, laid-back customers here to remain at the bar for hours. “Vorrei un Giro d’Italia, per favore,” and after that summery concoction of gin, muddled lime and Campari has been downed, with barely a stutter, “Vorrei un Brivido.” A few sips of the high-seas mixture of Pyrate rum, blood orange, lime juice, ginger ale and the Italian brandy known as Gran Gala, and it’s quite possibly amore.