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Picnic the Italian Way

June 13, 2022

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Lizzie Munro

Partner Content

Picnic the Italian Way

June 13, 2022

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Lizzie Munro

From the cocktails to the accoutrements, experts share their tips for creating the ultimate al fresco aperitivo spread.

Aperitivo has always gone hand in hand with the outdoors. Whether in a piazza, on a patio or at the park, it’s a moment that’s practically meant to be experienced al fresco. From the food that appears on the table to the bubbles that go in the glass, aperitivo is about absorbing the atmosphere and the company. The occasion is one that’s entirely portable; take it to the beach, a tailgate, a stoop or a city fire escape. As long as there is a cocktail, a salty snack and a desire to socialize, there is aperitivo, no matter the location.

When planning an aperitivo picnic Chef and Formaggio Essex cheesemonger Safia Osman likes to celebrate seasonal elements: “What grows together, goes together,” she says, recommending a stop through farmers markets or farm stands for impromptu, local supplies.

Meanwhile, Fabio Raffaelli, North American Brand Ambassador for MARTINI & ROSSI®, focuses on the bubbles. “Italians always bring prosecco,” he says. Combined with a an easy, breezy pack-and-go bag of salty potato chips and bowl of olives, you can construct the perfect Italian inspired da portare anywhere you please.

Here, tips from the experts on how to pack the perfect aperitivo picnic spread.

It’s in the Details

Even aperitivo to-go warrants a celebratory touch. If building spritzes à la minute, pack olives and orange slices to garnish each drink. For a special snack, mix together nuts with fresh herbs and spiced salt or olives with lemon or orange zest ahead of time, for a hit of unexpected flavor. Osman recommends bringing along an unexpectedly beautiful cheese like Robiola Incavolata, “a beautiful three-milk creamy cheese from Piedmont,” which is wrapped in cabbage leaves and “wins points for presentation.” Pack an all-purpose tool like a camping utensil with a corkscrew and knife attachment and linen napkins if you want to up the elegance.

Keep it Simple

Ashley Morton, aka Brieyoncé the Cheese Maven, says that simplicity is her preferred to-go style. “Pick one topping that will compliment all of your cheeses, rather than worrying about having a different one for each aspect of your board.” she says. “Hot pepper jelly is a surefire hit to go with all of your Italian cheeses.” Similarly, cheesemonger Osman recommends making cheese the star of the spread and not overloading it with tons of nuts, fruit or meat.

The Essentials

Something bubbly is always necessary, Raffaelli insists. Bring along a container of ice, a pre-batched Americano base (i.e. equal parts MARTINI & ROSSI Riserva Speciale Rubino and Bitter) in a canteen, and top with soda water. Or keep it simple and pair a bottle of MARTINI & ROSSI Fiero Vermouth—a blend of citrus and bitter-sweet orange with crisp white wines—with tonic in equal parts. Don’t worry about measuring perfectly, the al fresco moment is a time to embrace the Italian ethos of sprezzatura. Whatever you plan to serve, he suggests bringing along a few pre-chilled insulated tumblers to keep drinks cold in warm weather.

The Centerpiece

Of course, potato chips and olives are an easy picnic go-to, but, for Raffaelli, Italian charcuterie is a must-have addition—prosciutto and salami, always. Osman likes to bring along a firm cheese like pecorino (not Romano). Morton goes for an Italian trio, and matches each with a drink: La Tur, a “tangy little cream puff is sure to start the mood off right,” which she pairs with MARTINI & ROSSI rosé; Quadrello di Bufala, “a savory, earthy, and oh so fudgy,” cheese that goes with Fiero & Tonic; and aged provolone for its “sharp, zesty bite followed by a caramelized mellowed sweetness,” which does well with a Negroni.

Don’t Forget the Accoutrements

Osman goes for mostarda, “an underrated condiment,” as well as farmers market fruit, which she calls “nature’s candy.” As far as crackers, she prefers the fennel flavor of taralli, while Morton does Rustic Bakery’s Olive Oil and Sel Gris organic sourdough flatbread cracker. “Already perfectly sized, and [there’s] no hassle with portioning up large loaves of bread,” she adds. Morton likes to bring along Castelvetrano olives, pistachios and peaches, and she recommends organizing everything by texture to keep it fresh. “Have separate containers for dry food and wet food. Pack your crackers and nuts in one and your salami, olives and fruit in another.”

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