Matteo “Zed” Zamberlan, Rome’s Amaro-Obsessed Bartender
Raising the bar—literally.
On a balmy Thursday evening last month, I was seated in a low chair sipping a cocktail called the Rising Sun from what looks like a black ceramic tea cup. In front of me, the Colosseum loomed large. Though the view was pure Rome, my cocktail was not. A refreshing blend of gin, yuzu, honey, and matcha, it was a welcome change from the usual Aperol Spritzes and Negronis more common to the Eternal City. Beside me, a friend sipped an equally intriguing concoction of Scotch, Martini Bitter Special Reserve, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and celery bitters. A waiter then set down a veritable bounty—potato chips, olives, focaccia, homemade savoury biscuits, mini jamón iberico sandwiches, and tiny bites of salmon—on the table between us.
Aperitivo may be de rigueur here, but when it comes to cocktails, Romans tend to stick to the tried-and-true classics. Pop into any bar and you can get a glass of wine or an Aperol Spritz, but if you want a proper cocktail, a certain amount of local know-how is required. That’s why the debut of the Court, a swanky new bar inside the five-star hotel Palazzo Manfredi, is so exciting. Helmed by Matteo “Zed” Zamberlan—a self-declared “amaro obsessive” who spent almost five years behind the stick at some of New York’s best cocktail bars—the Court is the hottest new bar in Rome.
The century-long romance between New York City and Italy is alive and well at the Court. “Our unforgettable drinks and a breathtaking view almost make you forget about life going by around you. At the Court, time seems to suddenly stop,” Zed said. “I love the atmosphere here every evening, the energy generated by the well-being of our guests that creates for me that Old New York vibe that pushes me beyond my limit—a feeling that is almost impossible to find in Italy now.”
Zed has had an impressive few years. Last year, he consulted with the owner of Il Marchese to open Amaro Bar, the first in Europe dedicated to amaro, the bittersweet liqueur commonly sipped neat or over ice after dinner. Set within the chic bistro just a few minutes’ walk from Piazza del Popolo, the bar boasts a collection of over 550 bottles of amaro from all over Italy, many of which are never shipped beyond the country’s borders. Some aren’t even sold outside the area where they’re produced.
“The rarest is certainly an old Ferro-China Bisleri dating back to the early 1900s,” Zed says. “I don’t know its economic worth, but for every self-respecting collector it’s a precious object of rare value.”
At Amaro Bar, as at the Court, Zed has curated a list of creative cocktails you won’t find anywhere else in Rome. Take La Marchesina, for example, a rich blend of Luxardo, sweet amber vermouth, gin, and grapefruit bitters topped with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and served in a Nick and Nora glass. Needless to say, this is the place to taste the rarest amari in Italy.
In October, Zed’s book Il Grande Libro dell’Amaro Italiano will be published in Italian by Giunti Editore. Think of it as the ultimate guide to amaro, with historical explanations; descriptions of bottles from all 20 regions of Italy, Europe, and beyond; and lessons in mixology. He also pens a blog called Amaro Obsession on which he publishes articles about various amari, interviews with producers, and lists of the best amari to drink. For anyone who’s amaro-obsessed or just amaro-curious, Zed is the guy to meet.
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