Last Updated on August 3, 2021 by Jeremy
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It only took one word to get me into Piccolo Forno's annexed bar, and that word is grappa.
For those who do not know this spirit, grappa is made by distilling the waste products from the wine-making process (think skins, pulp, seeds, etc). The result of the distillation process is an extremely concentrated, very flavorful, and incredibly high-proof alcohol that quickly became one of my favorites during our travels around Europe.
For reasons unknown to me, this spirit has not taken off as much in the USA, and grappa has been something I've only enjoyed while abroad- until now.
Congratulations Pittsburgh, you're now officially a European city.
More Grappa Than Any Bar in Italy
We arrived at Grapperia right when they opened on a weeknight to partake in their happy hour special of $6 cocktails (which has sadly changed since our visit). Upon entering, the atmosphere of bustling Lawrenceville came to an abrupt halt and the cozy vibe of a local Italian bar took over.
Unlike many trendy bars in the city, Grapperia only has enough seating for about 25 people, and the vast majority of their alcohol collection is of Italian origin. Most important of all, they have a collection of about 30 bottles of grappa.
In a country where it is hard to find one good bottle of grappa at a bar, let alone several dozen, you know they have their priorities straight.
I must have let my excitement out a bit too loud, as I soon had the bartender telling me that he thinks they have more grappa than any bar in Italy. After giving the collection a solid look over, I am compelled to think that statement is indeed true.
Saving the Shots for Next Time
If there is one thing I know for certain about specialty bars, it is that when I see a favorite unusual liquor on the shelves they must have their act together. Grapperia is one of those bars.
In fact, they made the visit especially painful for me because as much as I wanted to order several rounds of my favorite grappa from our travels in Italy (Nardini, of which they had cases), I had to remind myself why we were there in the first place: for the happy hour cocktails.
Getting over my initial desire to drink all of the grappa in sight, we ended up giving four of their premier cocktails a try. They were:
- Apertivo: Grapperia's take on the famous Venetian Spritz- containing Aperol, Prosecco, and blood orange soda instead of the standard club soda. This one could only have been better if we were enjoying it outside along one of the beautiful canals of Venice. If you long for memories from a previous trip to Italy, this is the cocktail to get.
- Asino: Ginger and lemon lovers rejoice! This cocktail combines vodka, limoncello, ginger beer, and lemon juice into an incredibly potent cocktail. Ours had a great balance of flavor, however, I have my reservations as these are two flavors that can be a bit overpowering if not executed with extreme precision.
- LaVanda: Lavender infused grappa is all we needed to hear to order this one, and the addition of green pepper honey and lemon juice provided a nice balance of flavors to make this our favorite cocktail of the trip.
- Prima Parola: On the more herbal-y side of the spectrum is the Prima Parola, featuring juniper infused grappa, green chartreuse, maraschino, and lime. Much like the Asino, I'm hesitant on recommending this to everyone due to the powerful flavors, but if you know you love juniper or chartreuse, this one has your name all over it.
Overall we were beyond thrilled with our selection of cocktail choices at Grapperia and highly recommend a visit next time you find yourself in Lawrenceville for an evening.
As for me, I already have my next visit all planned out. It will start after a meal at Piccolo Forno and consist of a shot of my favorite grappa, progress into their house-made limoncello, and end with a caffe corretto – espresso with a shot of grappa for good measure.
I can't think of anything more Italian than that!
Grapperia is located at 3801 Butler Street (Rear) in Lawrenceville, right behind Piccolo Forno.
Looking for more stellar bars in Pittsburgh? Check out The Summit on Mount Washington, Ollie's Gastropub downtown, Eighth & Hays in Homestead, or Bar Marco in the Strip District!