“Aperitif is a noun whose roots are from the Latin word aperire which is to open, stimulate or begin. It is also a drink consumed before starting a meal, and is meant to be appetizing. “
Because the name is from a Latin word, Aperitif is an appropriate and aptly named restaurant and bar. You can see the French, Italian and Spanish influence in the design, architecture and menu.
From the high ceilings braced with dark wooden joists, lanterns running the length of the patio, the wrought iron gates or the fountain surrounded by flowers, you can’t decide if you are in Monaco, Valencia, Naples, Monte Carlo, Athens or Tunis.
The menu is exceedingly adroit in reflecting this idea. Ingredients such as Cous Cous, lamb, Tzatziki, pancetta, capers, Aioli, and Saffron are interwoven into this menu like a wonderful Mediterranean tapestry.
Executive Chef Chad Grant, formerly of Porterhouse, brings his fresh, locally purchased, made-from-scratch concept along with him to the outer suburbs. You can guarantee that the meats, seafood, produce and dairy are fresh and none of the food is processed, packaged or bought in.
The bottled water that is served to the customers is from Aqua Health and is local. The chefs even use it to cook the pasta. His pizza dough, brioche, bread and focaccia are made daily in their wood burning oven. As he told me in our discussion “the bread you are eating right now was pulled out of the oven at around noon today”.
Outside is an herb garden that boasts basil, yellow basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley and other herbs that the kitchen uses to spice up the flavor profiles of their food to keep it simple, fresh, and rustic.
As Chef Chad writes a great menu, runs a kitchen and brigade with perfection and precision, so too does the front of the house function under the direction of manager Corey T. Nyman. The dining room and bar performed like an orchestra with all the instruments operating in synch. Food coming and going, tables being bused, people being seated, beverages poured and orders being taken reminded me of how a well-run dining room is supposed to function.
With a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon, Corey was accommodating and answered all of my questions. Never in my 36 years of food service have I seen anyone as positive and upbeat. This goes a long way into explaining the professionalism of his staff.
We started with the assorted olives, salmon cakes and house-cut chips and Alfredo. The salmon cakes were two perfectly seasoned cakes molded with fresh salmon and lacking the extreme amount of filler you find elsewhere. They were served with lemon aioli and an Arugula salad that was so sinfully delicious I should seek absolution from the nearest priest.
The house cut fries are a bit different. The Alfredo sauce was a bit overpowered by the fried taste of the potatoes. They were also a bit difficult and messy to eat. Otherwise they were well presented; stacked lengthwise in a pasta bowl, smothered in the creamy garlic sauce.
The Veal Bolognese is a smooth velvety mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions cooked down with a rich tomato broth, red wine, and ground veal, then tossed with toothy fettuccine. The rosemary focaccia bread with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grated parmesan served alongside was the perfect accompaniment.
The Swordfish steak is cooked and coated with a citrus glaze and set atop a nest of carrots and spaghetti squash, nestled alongside an arugula salad with English peas that brought me back to my father’s garden when I ate them straight from the pod. Aside from the swordfish, the squash was the best thing on the plate.
Dessert was an ice cream cake surrounded by ground coffee mixed with crushed Oreo cookies with a Heath bar crumble through the center, served on a plate with caramel delicately drizzled from top to bottom. It was so rich and decadent that a trip to the gym is now in the day planner.
The ambiance of the dining room is open, inviting but can be a bit loud when it gets full. The dining room seats 236 people and there is a patio with a full bar that seats another 100.
Not many reviewers mention the bathrooms in their story, not unless they are issuing a caveat, but the bathrooms here are like a luxurious spa. Real towels are rolled and stacked on a shelf above a trough that acts as the sink. Meanwhile you put your hands under the spout and are finessed by the water cascading onto your soapy digits. The only thing missing was a mud pack facial and a fluffy robe.
Aperitif opened on January 30 of this year and is owned by The Nyman group which has restaurant holdings in Las Vegas, Scottsdale AZ and New York.
Aperitif is located at772 Beilenberg Drive in Woodbury. The phone # is 651-578-3000 or you can check them out online at www.AperitifRestaurant.com
Do not miss the chance to dine at this exceptionally run establishment. They care about what they do, and it is evident from the food, the staff and the management.