Take a trip to the Amalfi Coast with a sip of limoncello | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Take a trip to the Amalfi Coast with a sip of limoncello

This Italian liqueur is a perfect summer sipper

With long summer days stretching into hazy evenings, the idea of getting away from the city may be fresh on the mind. While a summer vacation may or may not be in the cards, a sip of limoncello can temporarily transport the imbiber to the beaches and lemon trees of the Amalfi Coast.  

Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made by soaking lemon peels (with all of the pith removed) in a base spirit, usually grappa or vodka, until the fruit releases its essential oils. Then it’s sweetened and traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner drink. The alcohol by volume can vary, but it’s typically lower in alcohol than other spirits, somewhere between 25 and 30 percent. Crema di Limoncello, a limoncello that adds milk instead of sugar, is typically even lower, often hovering around 16 percent alcohol by volume. But whichever version of this drink one sips, it’s sure to give a small, sunshine-yellow lift.

Italians have been making limoncello at home for generations and a quick Google search will yield dozens of recipes for this relatively-easy-to-create liqueur for those with curious taste buds. However, for the discerning drinker who isn’t a do-it-yourselfer, there are a few ways to work limoncello into this summer’s sipping schedule. 

Valozzi’s, an Italian restaurant Downtown, is playing host to a second annual Festa di Limoncello on Saturday. The bar staff crafts house-made limoncello for the event and transforms the lounge, sidewalk and adjoining alleyway into a slice of Italian life, and features Limoncello tastings, pizzas and a DJ.

If street parties aren't your thing, head to Coraopolis and visit Bella Bambini Cello distillery (aka BB Cello) to pick up a bottle or two. This distillery opened in September 2017 by a grandfather and granddaughter, Jim and Brittany Breen, who had been making limoncello together for years. Each batch of fruit is peeled by hand, distilled in grain alcohol for 30 days and then carefully strained. Along with limoncello, they also create blueberry, pineapple and orange cellos. BB Cello is partnered with Pennsylvania Libations, so its products are also available at its Strip District locations. 

Limoncello may be the best known, but there are other varieties of cello for the tasting. Meloncello, pistachiocello and fragoncello (made with strawberries) find their ways into the starring role of this liqueur. These varieties are harder to find in the U.S. though, so kitchen experiments may be in order.