With a rich Italian heritage and an Italian bar team to match, Quaglino's is a slice of Rome in Mayfair. Isabella Sullivan sat down with head bartender Davide Arcucci to talk about his new Q Aperitivo menu, a curation of seven cocktails inspired by seven cities of the Belpaese
Londoners, and the UK, are embracing La Dolce Vita more than ever before. The glamorous Italian lifestyle of after-work aperitivo, mounds of fresh pasta and bitter, spritzy cocktails in the sun have long captured our imaginations.
Quaglino's, a stalwart of Mayfair's drinking-out scene, is launching its first menu of the year: Q Aperitivo. Inspired by the spirit and vibrancy of Italy, Q Aperitivo combines primarily Italian ingredients, vermouths, liqueurs and spices, all from different regions, to form a list of seven very unique aperitifs.
'We designed Q Aperitivo to cover up a time of space at the bar when it's not really busy,' begins Arcucci, on how the concept came about. 'We are all Italians and love aperitivo, and in London, there is no good aperitivo.'
Beginning his career in his hometown of Naples at the age of 23, Arcucci moved to the cocktail capital of London in 2014. It wasn't long before he joined the team at Quaglino's, working his way up to head bartender and playing a pivotal role in the creation of its renowned cocktail menus.
'We wanted to make something different and, of course, good because honestly in London I can't think of any good aperitivo,' he adds. When creating the menu, the team looked to the history of Italy, with every cocktail inspired by a different region or city.
As a Neapolitan, Arcucci's favourite cocktail on the menu is Partenope, inspired by the foodie mecca of Naples. 'We take limoncello, Campari, Strega liqueur and we infuse Ketel One vodka with fennel seeds,' details Arucci. 'In Naples, it's the thing to go on a break and drink Peroni, so we also added Peroni Ambra foam too, to make it even more Neapolitan.'
Other Italian cities championed in the menu include the romantic waterside city of Venice. 'For the Venetian-inspired cocktail, La Gondola, we made a twist on a Bellini – a really classic cocktail from Venice,' continues Arcucci. It combines Maraschino, lime, kiwi and prosecco.
For the bar team, the first step in bringing the menu to life was coming up with a name and concept for each drink, and then working on the perfect ingredients to go with it. Take Negroni-twist the Ponte Vecchio, for example, using 'forgotten liquid' Galliano Balsamico. 'We wanted to bring back liqueurs from the past, from the history of Italy. Strega, for example, is a liqueur local to Naples that we used for the Partenope. It's a saffron liquid made with a lot of spices. So every ingredient has a story behind it.'
Quaglino's aperitivo concept doesn't stop at drinks, with the team looking to bring the full Italian experience to the venue. Seven dishes accompany the seven cocktails. 'At a lot of aperitivos in London, you get such a little selection of things, so we wanted to enhance it and make it like it is in Italy,' he adds. 'It's all about drink and food, food, food.'
On top of authentic cocktails and a bar snack menu sure to rival the best bars in Italy, Quaglino's is also on a sustainability mission. Recently, it banned the use of plastic straws in its bar and restaurants. The ban was implemented by owner D&D.
'We are really willing to recycle everything,' insists Arcucci. Many cocktail garnishes are made from reused fruits, like the kiwi purée, that is dried and used as a garnish for La Gondala. Homemade marmalade is also made at the bar, from the juice leftover from orange zest.
'We try to save every part of the fruit and we also have a social media campaign on sustainability, where we post our cocktails and explain the sustainability story behind it.
'I heard that as a whole industry we've helped to save more than 500m straws last year,' gushed Arcucci. 'And that really is cool.'
In September, we spoke to bar manager Marco Sangion about Q Aperitivo's predecessor.