Main Street Refuge

With my ears ringing and my nose full of dust, I took refuge from the Main Street construction at Osteria d'Aldo (301 Main, 713-224-2536). With its high Victorian eaves and green awnings on a white facade, the building could just as easily be standing on a corner in San Francisco. The heavy wooden front door, on the other hand, looks more like it was ripped off from the Alamo. Inside, the air is heavy with the aromas of sweet tomato-cream sauces, roasted garlic and herbed olive oil. Ah, Italia. Appropriately, Osteria's house martini uses Campari, the bitter aperitif that's as popular as Coke in parts of Italy (in fact, it's bottled with soda). Osteria mixes the Campari with Absolut and orange juice, replacing the sweet vermouth of a Negroni with a slightly bitter taste, which, when combined with the vodka, turns the drink into an aphrodisiac. Two sips, and you're standing on the banks of Naples with the preacher's daughter, the breeze blowing off the water as you gaze across to the isle of Capri. Back to reality. Gaze too wistfully here, and you might fall into an open unmarked manhole.

The Osteria d'Aldo Martini:

1 1/2 ounces Absolut vodka
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce orange juice
A splash of Rose's lime juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir, shake and pour into a chilled martini glass. Rim the glass with a lemon twist before dropping it in the drink. And as they say about their sexy little Fiats, fix it again, Tony.

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