Satisfying Aperitivo Cravings at Il Dandy
Posted on September 12, 2019
I have written about it in these pages before and the fact remains: Italian aperitivo culture is one of my favorite cocktail rituals of all time. I love the decadence of not only a pre-meal drink and snack, but also that it’s expected to be of decent quality, because why should anyone suffer? It’s a romantic idea.
So, when Il Dandy popped open in Bankers Hill on the ground floor of the same building as Mister A’s, my immediate thought was, “I hope they have aperitivo.” I hoped even though I knew the team behind it is from Calabria, in Southern Italy, and not from the north, where aperitivo is more popular and from where it historically originated.
At first, there wasn’t aperitivo. No matter, I was excited to visit anyway. Italian has long been my favorite cuisine, owing to the fact that not only is it the best international cuisine (in my opinion), it also reflects my ethnic background. I run boutique food tours in Northern Italy from time to time, so if there’s new Italian, you can guarantee I’m in a seat waiting to try it.
The cocktails are at once inventive and familiar, featuring a good selection of Italian aperitifs, as well as amari and grappas. The bar is managed by Cesar Sandoval, who originally hails from Ciudad Juárez in Mexico and who came up behind the bar at Catania in La Jolla.
My favorite cocktail is the Negroni Dal Mare, which at once perfectly displays brine and bitterness. It combines gin, Volume Primo vermouth, citrus-heavy Galliano L’Aperitivo, and olives to make a perfect seaside, Southern Italian riff on the old northern classic cocktail. The Negroni, in its classic form, also happens to be an aperitivo staple.
The Martini Delicat is my least favorite. Though I’m a martini enthusiast and I don’t shy away from grappa, the flavor of the grape spirit was too strong for me to appreciate any of the other elements, like aloe or Amaro Nonino. But it’s a creative and thoughtful idea, and I think it could be perfected with a few small ratio tweaks.
After enjoying a decadent meal and returning home stuffed and pleasantly buzzed, I received a note that aperitivo service would be starting at Il Dandy just the following week. Served daily from 4-5:30pm, the bar offers select draughts for $6 and white, rosé, and red wine options for $7. Cocktails are $9 and include the three drinks that are required for any aperitivo service worth its salt: an Aperol Spritz, Negroni, and Americano. A menu of abbreviated snacks accompanies, with little bites like culatello and a Parmigiano pillow, fried pasta cakes, squid ink and peas rice balls, and yellowtail carpaccio.
Those behind Il Dandy say the restaurant was named for Oscar Wilde, who, to them, embodied dandyism — a man who indulges his cultural passions above all else. Knowing that, and after a few evenings drinking at Il Dandy, it’s safe to say they hit the nail on the head. 619.310.5669, ildandyrestaurant.com Jackie Bryant
Photography by James Tran