July 18, 2008

Abundance of Flavors: Looking Cool

By Heidi Knapp Rinella

Italian sodas colorful, refreshing and made for summer's lazy days



Need a break from the oppressive summer heat? Consider indulging in a tall, cool Italian soda.

"They're refreshing," said Nick Catanella, general manager and managing partner of Trevi at the Forum Shops at Caesars. "They're colorful. They're fun. They look cool."

"Especially in the heat, it's really refreshing," agreed Nika Yazdani, pastry chef at Fiamma at the MGM Grand.

And there are a couple of other pluses: Depending on how they're formulated, Italian sodas can be both more healthful and less expensive than most soft drinks and frozen coffee drinks.

Trevi and sister restaurant Bertolini's serve Italian sodas all year, but at Fiamma, they're usually served only in summer.

"We try to incorporate them as part of our daily dessert special," Yazdani said. "Like a fresh fruit tart, lemon cream with fresh fruit, and Italian soda on the side. Nothing really heavy, just light and refreshing."

While Yazdani makes her own syrups, Trevi and Bertolini's use the Torani brand, a popular line generally used in coffee drinks (and available locally at Cost Plus World Markets, Smart & Final, coffee shops and some supermarkets). Yazdani said she started with "things like hazelnut and amaretto - it kind of came from the coffee flavors. Then we started incorporating fruit syrups and liqueur extracts."

She'll use fresh fruit or a fruit puree, strain it and add a little sugar or simple syrup.

"And hit it with the club soda," she said. "It's real simple and straightforward."

If you'd like to use a liqueur, she said, reduce it in volume and add simple syrup and the club soda, soda water or seltzer.

Yazdani plans to introduce flights of Italian sodas at some point.

"I'm playing around with some new things, to maybe have three or four different flavors on one plate," she said. "A sambuca-flavored one - which is a bit different but definitely refreshing - mango, organic strawberries from California. That one is amazing, and the color is so red."

The color is one of the most appealing things about Italian sodas, Catanella said.

"People see them going by on a tray and say, 'I want one of those,' " he noted. "Children love them. For some reason, women seem to want them more than men."

And the drinks have a festive air, he said, so people who are lunching on a workday often choose them instead of a cocktail.

Cherry, grape and kiwi are the most popular flavors, he said.

Trevi and Bertolini's also use heavy cream in their Italian sodas. Catanella said he hasn't encountered anyone who wants a nonfat version.

"I wouldn't want them to leave the cream out," he said. "Otherwise, it would be just like a regular soda. I think the heavy cream is what makes it. It's kind of like eating a Creamsicle. If you eat a Creamsicle without the cream, it would be a regular Popsicle."

Commercially produced Italian sodas also are available in Las Vegas. Paul Vultaggio, co-owner of Vultaggio Napolitan Beverage Co. of Las Vegas, and his partner, Chris Napolitan, import Chrome Citrus Blitz from Italy and sell it in restaurants and nightclubs - "it lends itself really well to alcohol" - 7-Elevens "and most Italian restaurants and pizzerias throughout the city," Vultaggio said.

He said they formulated the flavor with a co-packer in Italy, and sell only the one, which has orange, lemon and lime natural flavoring.

"We wanted to do one thing and do it great," he said. "It came to us during dinner at an Italian restaurant. The kids always want a clear soda. They really weren't getting the Italian experience. And then it just kind of hit us."

He said he remembers, as a child, drinking sodas of grape juice with carbonated soda water made by his Italian grandmother.

And that tradition continues in some restaurants across the valley. At The Pizza Caffe, 7435 S. Eastern Ave., server/bartender Pablo Gonzalez said he makes more than 20 flavors of Italian sodas, including such esoteric choices as toasted marshmallow and bubble gum.

"They're sweet, but they're not like regular sodas," Gonzalez said. "They're popular in the summer, because they're fresh."


5 ounces soda water

1 to 2 ounces flavored Italian syrup (Bertolini's bartenders use Torani)

1/2 ounce heavy cream

Fill an 8-ounce glass with ice. Add soda water while pouring in flavored Italian syrup. Top off with heavy cream.

Dunk a straw in the drink twice to mix in the cream. Garnish with fresh fruit that complements the flavor of the syrup.

Serves 1.

- Recipe from Bertolini's


9 ounces soda water

2 ounces flavored Italian syrup (Trevi's bartenders use Torani)

1 ounce heavy cream

Fill a 13-ounce Pilsner glass with ice. Add soda water while pouring in the flavored Italian syrup. Top off with heavy cream. Dunk a straw in the drink twice to mix in the cream. Garnish with fresh fruit.

- Recipe from Trevi


2 ounces sambuca syrup (recipe follows)

1 ounce simple syrup (recipe follows)

5 ounces club soda, soda water or seltzer

Combine sambuca syrup and simple syrup; pour over ice with club soda.

Makes 1 8-ounce serving.

To make sambuca syrup: combine 1 cup sambuca and 1/2 cup sugar in a small pot and boil on high; reduce by half. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

To make simple syrup: Mix equal parts water and sugar (preferably by weight instead of volume; for example, 1 pound water and 1 pound sugar) in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container.

- Recipe from Nika Yazdani, Fiamma


3 ounces cherry syrup (recipe follows)

5 ounces club soda, soda water or seltzer

Pour syrup over ice with soda.

Makes 1 8-ounce serving.

To make cherry syrup: Mix 3 ounces cherry puree with 6 ounces simple syrup. Or, if using fruit, puree cherries in a blender and strain; measure 3 ounces.

- Recipe from Nika Yazdani, Fiamma


1 ounce mango puree

11/2 ounces simple syrup

5 ounces club soda

Mix all ingredients and pour over ice.

Makes 1 8-ounce serving.

- Recipe from Nika Yazdani, Fiamma




Sparkling water or club soda

1/2 ounce pineapple syrup

1 ounce coconut syrup

1/2 ounce banana syrup

1 ounce half-and-half (optional)

Whipped cream (optional)

Fill a 16-ounce glass three-quarters full of ice. Cover ice with sparkling water and add other ingredients. Mix well.

Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 1.

- Recipe from DaVinci Gourmet

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at [email protected] or 702-383-0474.

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