Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meletti: An Italian Tradition

This post is going to be a bit off topic, since it does not involve any type of wine related product or label. Today will be about "apéritif" time, my favorite time of day.  "Apéritif" (derived from the Latin word aperire which means "to open") time is a sacred time in most European countries, but mostly in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France or Spain. It is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite, but it has become a bit of a social ritual, a time when families and friends meet up at a local café, bistro, or at someone's house, a time to catch up and chat it up. I always very much look forward to that experience whenever I go back home to France. It truly is a cultural expectation, and that is when I really feel at home.

The kind of apéritif served will vary from country to country. In France, it even varies by region: Pastis will be served in the south of France (especially near Marseilles), Calvados brandy in the Normandy region, Pineau in the Charente region (where my grandmother lives), but a simple glass of wine such as a Beaujolais Nouveau (something on the lighter side, usually), can also be served. I especially like a Martini (an Italian brand of Vermouth) and a good Pineau as an apéritif.

In Italy, the aperitivo might be vermouth (such as Martini mentionned above), Amaro, or a bitters drink such as Campari or Suze, two popular brands. I am going to tell you a little bit about the aperitivo maker Meletti, created in 1870 by Silvio Meletti, in Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

Silvio Meletti's mother ran a store where she would sell some home-made aniseed liquor, which became very popular with the locals.  Silvio learned, and improved his mother's recipe, and to this day, still uses the same ingredients and distillation technique to make Anisetta. The main ingredient is green aniseed, which is typical of the Mediterranean region. Meletti is now known mostly for its Anisetta, but it also makes other types of aperitivo such as Sambuca,  Amaro, and  Limoncello, among other products (you might be tempted by their Chocolate Punch, or their Creola Punch).

Today, you can find the Caffe Meletti in the Piazza del Popolo, in Ascoli Piceno. You might also find it interesting to know that several movies where filmed at Caffe Meletti, such as "Alfredo, Alfredo" starring Dustin Hoffman (1972) and "I Delfini" starring Anna-Maria Ferrero and Claudia Cardinale (1960).

Where is Ascoli Piceno, you might wonder...well here is a map for you, in case you decide to go see it for yourself :)

I have lots of great printable Meletti artwork for you, including some beautiful posters that would look fantastic in your dining room or cellar if you are lucky enough to have one.

This last poster is an advertisement for Anisetta in the form of a love declaration poem to the famous liqueur. Even if you don't know Italian, it always sounds really, really beautiful and romantic! :)

Ciao e salute!!!!  :)

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