Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ever tried Gassosa?

The only possible way I can think of to translate the name of this beverage is to call it "Gassy." Which is just a fun name for a drink, wouldn't you say?

Gassosa Neri, in my experience, is a drink of mythical proportions here in Rome. There are many devotees to the Neri family of beverages, not the least of which is called Chinotto (kee-NOTE-toh). Chinotto has inspired entire websites that gush over it, explaining the origins of the fruit from the citrus family known as chinotto and why everyone loves it so. (Personally I think it's weird and bitter-tasting. S. Pelligrino makes it as well, but true devotees will probably tell you that Neri is the only true Chinotto). In fact, the Chinotto.com website actually has a FAN CLUB called "Amici del Chinotto" (Friends of Chinotto) complete with membership cards. I am tempted to join just to get one for my wallet, but it wouldn't fit with all the stupid grocery store loyalty cards I am forced to carry around with me. They also have a list of pro-Chinotto bars throughout Italy (and one in Livonia, Michigan--hello, random!) where you can get Chinotto.

But, what of gassosa? It's like Roman Sprite. The ingredients are: water, sugar, carbonation. That's right folks, gassosa is carbonated sugar water. How's that for simplicity? No secret recipes here.

First of all, it's pretty hard to find. But if you do locate it, it comes in these little 20 cl glass bottles, sold in shrink-wrapped flats of six.

The best place to go gassosa-hunting is at a really traditional Roman pizzeria. For example, I know they have it at Cassa Mortaro on Viale Trastevere. Marked outside simply "Pizzeria" and in fact its real name being "Ai Marmi", this place is known as Cassa Mortaro (a.k.a. "The Mortuary") by locals because it has marble-topped tables---just like---you guessed it! It's the only place I can think of that has Gassosa Neri on the menu. A friend of mine always orders one and mixes it with beer. Some people mix it with wine.

Why is this relevant? It's not, really. But it just crossed my mind that some beverages have taken on mysterious and mythical proportions here in Rome, and not everyone knows about Gassosa. It's not that it's this incredibly great drink. But I think the fact that it's so hard to find makes it kind of popular among those "in the know." Another of these is Tassoni Cedrata.

Has anyone tried these? Anyone a big fan? What other "strange" or local drinks do you have where you live?

16 comments:

sognatrice said...

Ooh, we have gassosa, but it's from a place down here and it's in little clear bottles with blue bubbles on the front (and many mix it with beer: birra e gassosa). Then there's my favorite, the Brasilena, carbonated coffee drink. Do you have those? People tell me it's Calabrian, but what do I know? Good topic--I'll do my own post about these and link to you later in the week ;)

Michellanea said...

I think one of the reasons Italians talk so nostalgically about gassosa is because it is Italian and was the soda they had as kids before Coca Cola took over the market. Not a huge fan of sugary sweet drinks in general, so I don't drink it. At my old office, I worked with a bunch of people from Veneto and they'd talk about some Veneto gassosa they called "la spuma." The one "weird" thing I like is Crodino but those bottles are really small and I can drink one in a gulp.

KC said...

I've never had the Neri gassossa, but we have a bottle of Arnone gassosa in the refrigerator. (I'm pretty sure Arnone is a Neapolitan brand.) We don't buy it often but my husband loves it! I had never heard of it before meeting him, even though I'd spent quite a bit of time in Italy before that. I don't like it very much, but if I had to choose between gassosa and chinotto, I'd definitely choose gassosa.

Delina said...

They've got big bottles of gassosa in the supermarket, plus tassoni cedrata and chinotto. I like them all but drink them rarely as I prefer to avoid fizzy drinks. I must say though, that I prefer the Italian fizzy drinks to coke, sprite, fanta etc. Chino is my fave.

Tamara said...

I loved Gassosa as a kid, but now I just love Chinotto (my first choice), Crodino, or Pellegrino Sanbitter - nothing beter on a hot hot day.

(Thanks for the info about the Chinotto fan club, am going to check it out right now.)

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

I have never had gassosa, but I wil give it try the next time I'm in Rome.
We have a ginger ale, made locally at buffalo rock bottling company. It is so gingery you have to mix it with something else...like crown royal ;-)

Jess said...

Gassosa sounds interesting, though I am kind of amazed by the idea of mixing it with beer. Though I have seen (here in St. Maarten) a French drink which is half light beer and half citrus juice... Another strange one here is Mauby, which is a drink made from tree bark and fermented. Most people seem to drink homemade versions though there is a bottled version I've seen in some markets. Yum! (My first time commenting here, I enjoy your blog and imagining life in Rome!)

Isabelle said...

Never heard of Gassosa but I know Chinotto and... shall I say it ?... I just find it disgusting ;-)
Am I ready to live in Rome though....?

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Sognatrice: I've never heard of Brasilena! That will definitely be something to try in Calabria. Look forward to your post!

Mich: I think you are right. When I told Ale about this post, he said, "Well did you mention spuma?" I'm like, "Uh, never heard of it."

KC: I'm with you, gassosa over chinotto any day of the week. Chinotto creeps me out. But the people who love it are such die-hards about it. I mean, fan club?!

Delina: Chinotto is my husband's favorite too.

Tamara: Sanbitter makes me think of Aperol soda, something that I first thought tasted like Vicks Cough Syrup and now over the years strangely, it's grown on me.

Sandi: Ale would LOVE the ginger ale. That, and Mountain Dew, were his two favorite soft drink discoveries in the States. I'll never forget our first visit when he said, "What does that one, Dr. Pepper, taste like?" How do you describe these things if you've never tried them? It's not easy!

Jess: I know, I think mixing it with beer is kind of strange too, but you'd be surprised how many people do!

Isabelle: Don't worry, you're ready!! ;-)

Milva said...

I love Gassosa. It's better than both 7-Up and Sprite. When I was little, my parents used to mix gassosa and red wine together for a sweeter, watered down glass of vino in the summertime. I also remember this awful tasting almond-flavored syrup that my best friend's grandmother would mix with water in the summer. It was a cloudy white color. Yuck! Can't remember the name of it though.

sognatrice said...

Milva, my suocero mixes gassosa with red wine and swears by it; I don't care for it much. And that weird cloudy stuff (looks kind of like dishwater?) It's almond milk and they go crazy for it once summer hits here. Shelley, is it popular in Rome?

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Milva and Sognatrice: I think you might be talking about Orzata? I've never tried it although I've seen it in bottles at bars. It's like an almond syrup that you probably mix with club soda or something. I don't think it's very popular here in Rome, or rather, I should say I've never seen any of my friends order it or ever seen anyone order it here, for that matter.

Milva said...

Shelley,
You've get it! Orzata is the name...It's was literally torture to drink a glass of it but I always accepted one from my friend's nonna so as not to be rude. She probably thought I liked it and that's why she kept buying it! It also comes in a red version which is a little less painful to drink than the almond syrup.

BobInBoston said...

Does anyone know how/where to get Crodino in the US?

Stelle in Italia said...

ooh, i don't like gassosa. :( but i don't like chino' either, and my italian husband loves it. oh well.

jackie

Anonymous said...

bobinboston, if you're in or around Boston, you can get Crodino at Salem Food Store on Moody Street in Waltham, MA.