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In Dining

Explore the cuisine, culture and beverages of northwestern Italy at the Sprezzatura "In Bocca al Lupo Volume 1" pop-up. (PHOTO: Michael Olen)

Sprezzatura pop-up series focuses on regional Italian culture and cuisine

A brand new pop-up concept focusing on the food and beverage of Italy will launch its inaugural dinner series in Milwaukee in January 2017.

Sprezzatura, a collaboration between industry veterans Chef Erik Hansen, "liquorist" Jordan Burich and designer Caressa Givens will offer curated dinner experiences focused on regional Italian cuisine and culture.

The name Sprezzatura is an Italian word which can be loosely translated as "the ability to make something difficult appear effortless." And it captures a modicum of the experience they hope to impart to participating diners.

"We're approaching this from an anthropological perspective," notes Burich, "It's not just about food and cocktails. It's about the stories, the art, the poetry and Italy's contributions to design."

The series will kick off with a dinner on Jan. 29 at at EsterEv, the private dining space at dandan, 360 E. Erie St. "In Bocca al Lupo Vol. 1" will focus on northwestern Italy from the Ligurian coastline to the Alpine lakes and feature cuisine from Genoa, Turin and Milan. It's an area of spectacular vineyards, flourishing agriculture and an active contemporary arts scene. It's also the birthplace of vermouth, the aromatized fortified wine which began as a medicinal beverage before becoming widely accepted as a popular aperitif.

Eight courses of modern Italian cuisine will be delivered as part of an immersive cultural experience featuring a curated selection of wines and craft cocktails along with a focus on the history of vermouth and its incorporation into modern cocktail culture.

The project, Hansen says, was born of a collective love for Italian cuisine, beverage and culture.

"Our appreciation of all of those things are what really brought us together," he says. "And for me, it's a great opportunity to really branch out and play with new dishes that aren't supper club fare."

Hansen says he'll be exploring the cuisine of the area through dishes like Piemontese raviolo, large-scale stuffed pasta featuring a filling of ricotta, greens and soft cooked egg. He expects the menu will also include some classic Italian snacks, as well as roasted meats which are commonly served in the region.

"I don't want to do Italian-American. I want to do Italian as an American," notes Burich. "We're not claiming to have an authoritative stance on modern Italian food, but the idea is to give people an experience that makes them feel like they've stepped outside of Milwaukee."

About the organizers

Burich, who graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a degree in anthropology, spent several summers in Italy and Cyprus, an experience which sparked his passion for Italian culture and cuisine. His industry experience includes work at Blackbird in Bay View, Hinterland and most recently dandan, where he invents creatively executed cocktails to accompany the restaurant's Chinese-American-inspired fare.

Givens, whose most recent work has been in community engagement for Bublr, has a background in fine dining service and design. Her dream has always been to open her own bed and breakfast.

Hansen, currently executive chef of Supper, has also held positions with the University Club, Distil, Hinterland, Shully's Cuisine and the Erin Hills Golf Course. He developed a passion for Italian cuisine while living in Tuscany, about 13 kilometers northwest of Florence. During his time in Italy, he says he took culinary classes and worked in restaurants with a number of area chefs. "It was eye-opening," he says. "And it really helped to define my perspective on food."

Together, the three harbor a dream of opening a small brick and mortar restaurant and hotel featuring post-modern Italian design, a chef's tasting menu and an Italian beverage menu that is both broad and deep.

Get your tickets

Reservations for Sprezzatura's In Bocca al Lupo Vol. 1 on Jan. 29 are available online. Seating is at 6 p.m. Cost is $80 per person plus tax and gratuity. Additional seatings may be added if demand warrants. For additional information, email info@sprezzaturamke.com.

You can also keep up with Sprezzatura by visiting sprezzaturamke.com or by following it on Facebook and Instagram.

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