Aperitivo Cicchetti serves big flavors in small plates

“I think we’re in a Sally Rooney novel,” my guest joked halfway through our meal at Apertivo Cicchetti.

Considering Aperitivo is less than 100 yards from the entrance to Trinity College’s arts block and our diners were all in their twenties, this was a wise observation.

The couple next to us were even dressed a bit like Connell and Marianne and at one point had some strong words about something. I really hope she was scolding him for showing up to their date in his football shorts – even Connell would never have done that.

L’Aperitivo Cicchetti is a lively new ‘small plates’ (cicchetti) wine and cocktail bar on Nassau Street created by the folks behind The Port House tapas bar.

The room is tiny, but that also meant noise levels were high, so listening wasn’t as easy as one might expect.

The interior aims for the “Italian swivel joint of the 1950s”, they say, and they more or less succeed – the lampshades made from Campari bottles being particularly attractive. The menu is a mixum-gatherum of familiar Italian dishes and cocktails with no particular region in mind.

We started with the Classic Negronis (€11) because you would have to do it in a place like Aperitivo — they were done properly with a good balance between sweet and bitter.

Fritto Misto & Bruschetta

Likewise, our Bruschetta Pomodoro (€8) was a great start to food – crispy grilled ciabatta slices piled high with sweet cherry tomatoes coated in a punchy basil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Fritti Misto Per Due (€14) could have served three such was the small mountain of fried fish that arrived next.

It was also perfect and I can still taste the baby sardines (bianchetti) in their crispy, light batter – not to mention the sweet matchsticks of fried zucchini and plump Mediterranean prawns – the dish reminded me that at one point in my life, I need to go to the ‘Fritto Misto’ festival in the Marche region – it sounds like heaven.

The spinach and cheese tortellini (€7.50) were creamy and plant-based and they slid down easily – a nice contrast to the rich Rigatoni Carbonara (€8.50) which only contained egg yolks, parmesan cheese and good quality, slightly funky guanciale. The classic Tuscan panzanella salad (€7.90) also provided contrast thanks to a pleasantly tangy dressing, and again the tomatoes shone brightly.

Rigatoni Carbonara
Rigatoni Carbonara

Now on to a negative note, the only one of the evening if we exclude a tasteless garlic mayonnaise. Pollo Milanese (€7.50) — the Italian version of a Schnitzel — was virtually inedible thanks to an unpalatable dense coating and shoddy chicken — this dish needs a complete overhaul.

The drinks menu is almost exclusively Italian with a selection of cocktails starting at €7.50 for the House Negroni (premixed) and other cocktails at €11-12 on average.

The wine list is all Italian without a bargain, but our fruity, ripe bottle of Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno from Marche was relatively affordable at €38.

Given our gluttony at the start of the meal, we opted for lighter desserts to share.

A lightly boozy Zabaglione (€8) had pleasant custard flavors offset by the Marsala, while a make-your-own Affogato (€6) came in three scoops of ice cream with a good quality espresso on the side .

Two hours into our meal, the room had warmed up considerably – enough that the boy next to us had taken off his geansaí and completed his sports ensemble with a Brazilian soccer jersey.

Noise levels had also increased exponentially – it was fun but it was time to move on (as Connell told Marianne – in chapter four I think).

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