When in Rome 

As I write this, I am sitting at a cafe in Rome, sipping a Campari and soda. Which cafe, I couldn't say, and it doesn't matter. They're everywhere -- cramped but cozy, not doting but not dismissive, a mix of regulars and randoms. The one thing they all share is character(s).

To say I'll be able to replicate this environment at home would be unrealistic, but to deny Atlanta has its share of character(s) would also be a lie. And while I may not be able to feel quite like Gregory Peck to an anonymous Audrey Hepburn at home, I can find myself equally nestled, if not in a corner cafe, then at the corner bar -- in this case at Fritti. Along with neighboring big brother Sotto Sotto, Fritti has just introduced an Italian cocktail menu featuring such still-fresh flavors of antiquity as Campari, Galliano and Limoncello for those who appreciate their cocktails and Sweetarts equally.

Sure, this garage rehab at the corner of North Highland Avenue and Elizabeth Street offers delicious wood-oven Neapolitan pizza, and an espresso is as easily and refreshingly drawn as a steaming bath. But what it is that will remind me most of my week in Rome is sass and a glass. Adorable Fritti bartender Ashley takes care of the sass from the (ir)regulars, and in my glass I get Campari. I see red but feel chill.

To many, Campari -- Italy's aperitivo of choice, a compatriot of aperitifs Pernod, Pimm's No. 1, etc. -- may seem puckering and astringent. The incandescent scarlet beverage -- bitters steeped with various herbal and fruit extracts -- certainly leaves an impression the first time it hits the tongue, and I don't just mean coloring it like a Popsicle. To complicate matters, when not served with soda or soda with an additional dash of sweet vermouth (the latter called an "Americano"), Campari is most often mixed with equal parts gin and sweet vermouth as a "Negroni."

Fritti's strength as a neighborhood restaurant and bar is that it elegantly breeds complexity from simplicity. For those who love the prickly pairing of tart and tangy, an excellent mate to your Campari would be Fritti's gorgonzola, balsamic and pineapple pizza. Or for something more rustico, try a cocktail (hell, try anything) with the rice flour battered funghi fritti scented with truffle oil and rosemary. Talk about harmony! Salute!
Fritti, 309 N. Highland Ave. 404-880-9559. www.frittirestaurant.com.



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