Hot, languid days and good food are as much a feature of the Asti province in Italy’s Piedmont region as they are in Cayman. One refreshing way of cooling down while savoring each meal, or after dessert, is to enjoy a small glass or two of limoncello, the zesty citrus liqueur which is as celebrated throughout Italy as is the fine wine of the Asti region.
Asti transplant and enthusiastic limoncello maker, Simone Pagnozzi, is the main bartender at Agua Restaurant & Lounge. He first learned to make the bracing beverage as a child from his Neapolitan father, Giuseppe.
Pagnozzi’s limoncello was made initially for home consumption after relocating to Grand Cayman, but he brought a bottle in for staff to try after their shifts and an Agua staple was born. Served now to clients as an after-dinner digestif, the sweet and soothing drink made from a carefully guarded family recipe is a winning mixture of lemon peels, water, sugar and grains.
A batch of the homemade limoncello takes Pagnozzi two months to ferment properly and it is clearly well worth the wait, judging from the increased orders at the restaurant known principally for its Italian/Caribbean and Peruvian fare.
Limoncello is as Italian as linguine said the maker, who also noted that there are dozens of varieties, depending on regional and personal taste. Other twists on the original drink popular in Italy include melon-, pistachio- and strawberry-flavored limoncello.
“At home, we always serve it at the end of every meal with local homemade desserts, with or after coffee,” said Pagnozzi, who said that making the potent digestif makes him think of his homeland.
Served many ways
Best stored in a freezer and served chilled, the liqueur, either clear or slightly cloudy, is distinguished by its warm citrus notes and warming properties as it settles gently on the stomach. It is a wonderfully restorative way to cut through rich meals.
As a nod to the Caribbean, Pagnozzi’s newest versions also include lime zests, which leave their own subtle aftertaste. Emboldened by the digestif’s success, he has concocted a creamy limoncello, a basil-infused one, an orangello, as well as his riff on the classic Peruvian drink chicha morada, much-loved in that country and as distinctive for its purple color as its corn-infused taste.
With global trends in food and beverages always keen to pick up and promote great regional and national delicacies, limoncello is becoming a popular ingredient in cocktails and is increasingly found on restaurant menus.
Also found in ice creams and some cakes, the liqueur is a super way to end a meal and a winning recipe when infused in a dozen or more tempting beverages.