Chef Michele Casadei Massari celebrates the Negroni, the perfect aperitivo, interview

Campari Negroni Week, photo provided by Campari
Campari Negroni Week, photo provided by Campari /

From celebrating the 10th annual Negroni week, thirsting for the perfect aperitivo, or toasting the world’s best-selling cocktail, the vibrant color and flavor of a Negroni is always welcome. For Chef Michele Casadei Massari, the celebrated Italian chef and restaurateur, he appreciates that the iconic cocktail sets the tone for the gathering in and around the table. During a recent conversation with FoodSided, Chef Michele expressed why this Italian staple is always a delightful choice.

As part of the 10th annual Negroni week, Chef Michele shared his thoughts on why this classic has become such an integral part of cocktail culture. He said, “For the 10th anniversary of Negroni Week, I’m excited to partner with Italy’s iconic red aperitivo, Campari, to raise a toast to the world’s best-selling cocktail – the Negroni. This global initiative wouldn’t be what it is without the Negroni, a timeless classic cocktail featuring three spectacular ingredients, with Campari at the heart. The iconic Negroni is the perfect aperitivo for any occasion as the recipe (equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and gin) can be adjusted in the same proportions for any spirit, offering a riff for each palate.”

While the Negroni can be enjoyed at any point during a meal, the flavors tend to awaken the palate. From bright to refreshing, that first sip is a step down a delicious path.

Chef Michele went on to explain that “The reason the Negroni pairs so well with aperitivo style foods like olives, salted chips, cured meats and savory cheeses is as simple as its recipe. Equal parts bitter, sweet and savory. The salt in some of those foods balances out the bitter and the sweet of the drink and the unique nature of the cocktail will have you reaching for one more bite.”

Campari Negroni Week
Campari Negroni Week, photo provided by Campari /

Pairing the iconic cocktail with a variety of foods is easy. As Chef Michele explains, “A Negroni can set the full tone of the dinner from the most easy amuse bouche to the end with a dessert mirroring all the amazing aromas and flavor profiles of this never-ending surprise. The Negroni cocktail is and always will be, embracing umami and adding class to all it gets paired with, including a great steak, an amazing refreshing farm salad, the most simple and delicate fish or the most gracious pasta. Lately I’ve been loving matching a pairing with Langoustine Scampi, as much as with all truffle preparations and the perfect companion of an end of dinner cheese platter!”

The Negroni Week celebration has been a way to highlight and give back to the restaurant industry. It is more than just one moment in time. The dedication to support the community who strives to provide the best hospitality is more than just words. It is a willingness to fix the now yet prepare for a better future.

As Chef Michele shared, “As a local New York City chef, Campari and Imbibe Magazine’s decade-long dedication to Negroni Week and empowering bars and restaurants worldwide to fundraise for charitable causes is well-respected within our industry, having fundraised over $3 million dollars for charitable causes to date. This year Negroni Week welcomed a new official giving partner, Slow Food. I’m a proud recipient of The Slow Food NYC Snail of Approval, which means being responsible and oriented to teamwork that involve FOH, BOH and all our suppliers, as much as the menu and service we want to offer, aiming to create a unique and exceptional dining experience based on quality and meaning. Slow Food is a global movement of local communities and activists across 160 countries that envisions a world where everyone has access to good, clean and fair food. The Slow Food Negroni Week Fund will directly support Slow Food’s projects, while supporting the communities through grants, the preservation of cultural and biological diversity and the promotion of food and beverage education and knowledge exchange.”

While chefs and their restaurant partners look to ahead to create a stronger restaurant environment both in and out of the kitchen, the struggles of the past several years weigh on the minds of the community. Still, the dedication, passion, and willingness to welcome people to the table for the most flavorful experience is and will always be front and center.

For Chef Michele, the restaurant industry has a much to offer, even it is looks different from year’s past. He said, “I think I can feel a major change has happened in the industry and it’s here to stay and evolve into something else, not necessarily for the worse. I feel there is a new increase in passion for what we do and a bigger effort from both FOH and BOH. I believe exciting times and high quality times at restaurants are the answer and what we will see growing more and more. Who is in the field now loves and chooses the profession and our clients are there for us and they want the best for our profession, in addition to the most curated experiences we can offer. I feel it’s such an important moment to grow, spread love and knowledge and be ready to learn more and more.”

Those sentiments seem to underline the vision of many chefs. While the food on the table might be diverse and people’s backgrounds can vary, the community around the table continues to thrive. Fostering that idea of food and community comes down to one word for Chef Michele.

“Cooking, sharing a meal, sharing a glass of wine, sharing a Negroni, sharing! See how much I’ve been using this word? Well, this is what our industry is about and sharing once more is universal – It’s human nature and a need that brings together all possible cultures, adding colors and diversity, both major gifts of the world around us. A community can always be engaged by a great restaurant, where great stands for all the above plus teaching, learning and bringing in all the tools to create a better work environment and a happy place for the community, clients, workers and industry. Cooking great ideas with a great time means a lot and can inspire others, as well as build opportunities for meeting, sharing and telling each other stories, like we were all around a huge round table breaking bread we baked together!”

Whether people tear off a piece of bread baked together, share a meal from a table full of laughter, or find inspiration in flavor that creates a memory, it is time to raise a Negroni and toast to a life well-lived. As the vermillion hue illuminates the glass, it is a reminder that every day is full of sweet, bitter, and savory. When all those elements are in balance, the flavor is one to celebrate.