Cappelletti and What Time Is Midnight Mass?

A Vino Aperitivo for the Season

Midnight Mass

It’s early on Christmas Eve when the phone rings in the parish office, and the caller asks “What time is Midnight Mass?” Honest. Every year at parishes around the world inquiring minds want to know. A friend who was a parish administrator herself said that she fielded dozens of such calls every Christmas. We all chuckled at the goofy question. And every Christmas Eve morning I called my friend at work, put on my silliest, most heavily accented voice and asked the very same question. I could hear the hesitation in her voice while she figured it out, and then she replied “And Merry Christmas to you too, Miss Adri.” It was our very own Christmas greeting.

But Christmas Eve Midnight mass presents its own logistical problems. What do you serve before Mass? We’ve eaten a big feast just hours before, but by the time 10 PM rolls around, as the rest of the relatives arrive for a visit and the drive to the family parish, everyone is ready for “a little something” to tide us over. Somehow when I think of Mass, and what to drink, I think of Italian vermouth – served straight up in a pretty etched glass. But it is Christmas, and that should have you seeing and serving red, the festive kind, crimson with citrus and herbal notes. I know. You think I am talking about Campari, or perhaps Aperol. Nope. Allow me to introduce you to Cappelletti. It’s not the Bridge convention, nor is it Modena’s famous pasta, the “little hats” bathed in capon broth so popular at this time of year.

Cappelletti Bottle

No, the Cappelletti I am talking about is ruby-red and round, like that famous reindeer’s nose. It is a bold and distinctly aromatic vino aperitivo (wine-based aperitivo) made from Trebbiano grapes and Alpine herbs. For over one hundred years the Cappelletti family, in Italy’s northern Alto Adige has made this vino aperitivo, and it even has its own nickname – Il Specialino. Before the Italian grammar police get all wild over the use of Il rather than Lo, that is the company’s name, not mine. OK?

Think of it as the kinder cousin of Campari, the subtle little sister of Aperol. With its delicacy and bittersweet orange flavor, it is gentler, and yet somehow fuller in flavor than its red relatives. The finish is particularly pleasing with a chinchona bite, but less of a bitter kick than Campari. A note on color – for those purists among you who are disappointed with the artificial coloring now used in Campari, there is reason to rejoice. Cappelletti get its crimson hue from real carmine derived from crushed cochineal beetles, a dye from the old days.

Use Cappelletti anywhere you might use Aperol or Campari – in a Negroni or Negroni Sbagliato, a Boulevardier, or an Americano. Try it mixed with white wine and an orange twist for a turn on the classic Spritz. If you have something to celebrate (which would be just about every day at this time of year), pour it into a Prosecco-filled flute, and add some orange bitters. I strongly recommend you make space for Cappelletti on your bar cart, especially if you find Campari or even Aperol a challenge.

Cappelletti Aperitivo

Cappelletti & Soda

makes 1

This can also be made with tonic water, if desired. Fill a rocks glass ¾ full with ice. Add 2 ounces of Cappelletti, or to taste, and top with soda or tonic water. Garnish with an orange wheel, and serve.


Prosecco & Cappelletti

makes 1

Fill a flute ¾ full with well-chilled Prosecco. Add a splash of Cappelletti, and a dash of orange bitters, if desired. Garnish with an orange twist. Serve.

Serve the Cappelletti cocktails with Mezzelune ai fungi and two versions of crostini topped with Gorgonzola dolce. The mezzelune are little puff pastry half-moons filled with mushrooms, shallots, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Italian parsley. Both crostini feature Italy’s famous Gorgonzola dolce, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese. Ivory in color with delicate blue veins, the cheese is made in the Northern Italian regions of Piemonte and Lombardia and gets its subtle blue veining from Penicillin spores. One is topped with toasted hazelnuts, basil and a dash of rich oil, and the other with an indulgent fig mostarda. This light meal is so good it is almost sinful, but it will get you to the church on time.

Mezzelune ai Fungi

Mezzelune ai Fungi

makes about 50

These puff pastry half-moons have been a favorite in our home for well over thirty years – ever since I learned to make them from a dear friend, Carolyn Thacker. Grazie, Carolyn! They are perfect with wine and cocktails. These antipasti can be prepared weeks ahead and frozen unbaked. Use any mushrooms you like, white button, cremini or Italy’s famous fungi porcini. If you are using frozen puff pastry, place it, still in its box, in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Remove the puff pastry from its box, and place it on the counter to warm for about 15 minutes before unwrapping. If the puff pastry becomes difficult to work with or gets too soft at any point, return it to the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

1 ½ pounds of prepared puff pastry
1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp towel
½ cup minced Italian parsley
2 shallots
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¾ cup dry bread crumbs
2 ounces unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg

Place the shallots in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mince. Add the mushrooms and Italian parsley. Pulse to mince. Place the oil and butter in a 10-inch skillet, and heat over a medium flame. Add the mushroom mixture and ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt. As the mushrooms cook, they will release moisture. Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated, about 10-11 minutes. Combine the mushroom mixture, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, and pepper in a medium bowl. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside to cool.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Flour a rolling pin, and roll the puff pastry to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the puff pastry into 3-inch rounds. Place the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate them for 20 minutes. Remove the puff pastry rounds from the refrigerator, and place 1 teaspoon of filling just off-center on each round. Moisten the edge with water, and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Press the edges together with a fork. Place the mezzelune in 1 layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate them for 1 hour prior to baking. For longer storage, place the mezzelune in the freezer in one layer, and freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Transfer them to an airtight container, and keep frozen until ready to bake.

To bake, adjust the oven rack to the center level, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Make an egg wash by lightly beating together the egg and 1 teaspoon of water. Place the mezzelune on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, and brush with the egg wash. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Serve warm.

Crostini with Gorgonzola Dolce and Mostarda di Fichi

Crostini with Gorgonzola Dolce and Mostarda di Fichi

Italy’s mostarde are delightful sweet and sour preserves cooked in a syrup flavored with mustard – either in powdered form, seeds, or essential oil. Here I used Mostarda di Fichi , a fig mostarda, made by Corte Donda in Lombardy. Chunks of luscious figs are suspended in a sweet syrup flavored with mustard oil. This one is positively decadent. The succulent pieces of cooked fig are set atop the crostini, and the thick, shiny syrup oozes over the cheese and drips onto the plate. This is also wonderful with softened or grilled Taleggio.

baguette or country style bread
Gorgonzola dolce
Mostarda di Fichi

Set the Gorgonzola dolce out to soften. Heat a grill pan for five minutes over medium heat. Slice the bread on a slight angle to yield pieces with a large surface area, about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Grill on both sides until slightly warm and lightly marked.

Spread the softened cheese atop the crostini and spoon the Mostarda di Fichi over. Serve.

 Crostini with Ricotta, Gorgonzola Dolce, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Basil

Crostini with Ricotta, Gorgonzola Dolce, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Basil

These crostini topped with a mild, yet rich mixture of moist Gorgonzola dolce and cow’s milk ricotta will literally disappear from the buffet table and trays. Toasted hazelnuts, with their rich nutty taste, and basil, with its licorice and lemon notes, are perfect partners for the two cheeses. A dribble of fine hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil will enrich the crostini, marrying the components in one succulent bite. Light yellow and brimming with the essence of hazelnut, Pariani hazelnut oil adds an unmatched voluptuousness to this antipasto. It is exquisitely expensive, but worth every penny. If you prefer to use extra virgin olive oil, I suggest Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a Tuscan oil made by food writer and cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns. Pamela’s oil is smooth and fruity with just enough peppery zing to offer a delightful counterpoint to the cheeses, basil, and hazelnuts.

¼ -½ inch thick slices of baguette
8 ounces Gorgonzola dolce
4 ounces whole milk ricotta
½ cup hazelnuts
basil leaves
1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil
Hazelnut oil

Adjust the oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast 12 to 15 minutes, stirring several times, until fragrant. Remove the nuts from the oven and place them on a clean, lint-free kitchen towel. Gather the towel and rub the nuts together to remove as much of the skins as possible. Discard the skins. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, chop them coarsely, and set them aside.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan for five minutes over medium heat. Slice the bread on a slight angle to yield pieces with a large surface area, Grill the bread on both sides until slightly warm and lightly marked. Peel the garlic clove and cut it in half. Rub one side of the warm bread with the cut surface of the garlic. (If you prefer no garlic, omit this step.)

Break the gorgonzola into small pieces and combine it with the ricotta. If you prefer a smooth mixture, blend further, using a fork to mash the cheeses together. For a completely smooth mixture, place the cheeses in the food processor fitted with the metal knife and pulse until smooth. Spread a bit of the mixture on the garlic-rubbed surface of each slice of bread. Place basil (either tiny leaves or larger leaves cut in chiffonade) atop the cheese mixture. Dot the crostini with the chopped toasted hazelnuts. Arrange the crostini on serving plates and dribble a bit of hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil over them, allowing the oil to pool in the nooks and crannies of the cheese topping. Serve.

Crostini with Ricotta, Gorgonzola Dolce, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Basil

Corte Donda Mostarda di Fichi is available from Amazon and Market Hall Foods
Pariani Hazelnut Oil is available from Eataly
Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available from Olio2Go
Cappelletti Vino Aperitivo is available from K&L Wines and other purveyors of fine wines and spirits, about $19.00 for a 750 ml bottle.

Note: You can click on any picture for a larger image, and to see a slide show!

I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.
Nativity scene photo credit:

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  1. Comment by Mette:

    I recognize California in you choice of drink – It seems a bit too sunny for the freezing weather around here, but the crostini look tempting whatever the occasion. Thank you for the inspiration Adri, and all the best for the new year.

  2. Comment by nancy at good food matters:

    Hi Adri, I’m a little late in arriving here–but the What Time is Midnight Mass is priceless!
    I was not familiar with Cappelletti but I trust your impeccable Italian judgment. All the best to you in 2016.

  3. Comment by Roz Corieri Paige:

    Ciao Adri, I’m just stopping by to wish you a wonderful and beauty-filled new year! Thank you for your friendship in the past few years and all of your very informative, helpful and delicious posts!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Roz,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your good wishes. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday. My, but the year has just flown by, and you’ve been busy. I hope you are well, and I send warmest wishes for a terrific 2016! Cheers!

  4. Comment by Giorgios:

    Mmmmmmm…I can see it now…enjoying this beautiful cocktail with my beautiful wife by a roaring fire while some vintage vinyl from your late, great uncle spins on the turntable. Wonderful!
    Merry Christmas…Giorgios

    • Comment by Adri:


      At this time of year I can hear him singing “Oh the weather outside is frightful…” Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday season. Buon Natale!

  5. Comment by Karen (Back Road Journal):

    What a wonderful treat to enjoy before going to midnight mass, whatever time is starts. 😀 I have a bottle of Aperol and Compari on my bar and now will add Cappelletti. I have friends that I know would enjoy it, naturally served with your suggestions…they all sound delicious. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, Adri.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Karen,

      Cappelletti really is terrific, and it will make a great addition to your bar. I hope you have a joyous Christmas, and I send best wishes for a terrific 2016! Cheers!

  6. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    Adri – So much to say about this post. First of all, you are a “class act.” I love the way you introduce the piece with the Christmas midnight mass story. You have a gift for writing, my friend. Then this liqueur you have written about is a new one to me, but I know I would love it. I have learned about so many heretofore unknown alcoholic beverages from you (and loved every one). Then you mention chinchona. I just started reading “The Signature of All Things” and chinchona is mentioned in the first few chapters. What are the chances of reading about it again on your blog when I never even heard of chinchona two weeks ago? And I love the part about the Italian grammar police. You are so on top of things!! Did I mention the delicious recipes yet? And the photos and how beautiful they are? Oh and let me finish with the pretty snowflakes falling down. Like I said, you are a “class act.” I want you to write a cookbook – or any book. Buon Natale, amica.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Linda,

      Wow, what very kind words. I am truly touched. I thought about you with this liquor because I recall discussing Aperol with you. I really think you’ll like it. It is the new kid on the block- having only started to garner attention in the US last year. Oh, and I just could not resist the grammar police. You know how they can be… Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a brilliant new year filled with love and joy.

    • Comment by Laura~ RYG:

      I so agree ~ I love traditions that hold true over the years. Especially the Christmas Eve service!!! So special. WE always light real candles, not always a good idea with the 3 and 5 year old, but you know, it’s tradition. Love these crostini’s. Looks like food right out of a Rick Steves video. Yum.

      • Comment by Adri:

        Greetings, Laura,

        I am glad you enjoyed this one, and thank you for the kind words. These traditions some how seem to mean more as the years roll by. I wish you and yours a very wonderful holiday season!

  7. Comment by Maureen | Orgasmic Chef:

    Oh my, everything is gorgeous. Those mezzeluna ai fungi are calling my name and I’ve never met a bruschetta I didn’t adore. Finish it off with prosecco and cappelletti and I’d be a happy woman. This post did make me laugh and brought up a very dark memory. When I was 8 years old and in front of extended family and friends I asked what time Midnight Mass was. They all laughed at me and I was mortified! 🙂 I began to cry and one of my old uncles said, “Look, it could have been worse, you could have farted a stinky one.”

    That only made it worse!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Maureen,

      I am glad you enjoyed this one – even if it did dredge up a not so very pleasant memory. On the face of it asking what time Midnight Mass is held is not so very silly a question, and it seems that it is asked the world over. Your story brought a smile to my face. Merry Christmas to you and yours and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

  8. Comment by Hannah:

    Ah, that is too funny! A whole lot like the classic question “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” 😉
    I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy your midnight mass, whenever it may be!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Hannah,

      That is hysterical about Grant’s Tomb! Actually that is the kid of retort I might have expected from my friend. Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year!

  9. Comment by Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:

    I love Campari and Aperol Spritz’s so I know I would adore this. What a funny little routine you and your friend have! 😀 I hope you have a very Merry Christmas Adri!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Lorraine,

      I bet you will enjoy Cappelletti. I hope you can find it in your neck of the woods. I am glad you enjoyed our phone routine. We certainly got a kick out of it. Marry Christmas to you!

  10. Comment by sue|theviewfromgreatisland:

    This post has so much deliciousness going on — where to start? I love Aperol and Campari, so I know I’d love this aperitivo — and those mushroom puffs are calling my name…loudly!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Sue.

      Thank you so much. We have enjoyed these menu items for ages in our family, and it is my pleasure to share them. Thank you so much for you kind comment, and I wish you all the best for the holidays and the coming year!

  11. Comment by Liz Posmyk (Good Things):

    What time is midnight mass? Funny question indeed! Adri, your menu is very festive indeed. Wishing you the compliments of the season, my friend xx

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Liz,

      Oh, but we did get a laugh out of that one each year. Thanks for the kind words, and I wish you all the best for the holidays and 2016! Cheers!

  12. Comment by Anthony Fama:

    It all looks and sounds so very tasty and festive

  13. Comment by Laney (Ortensia Blu):

    You expanded my cocktail world a couple of years ago with the Boulevardier (which now has a few other people hooked) – so if you say to try it with Cappelletti, I most certainly will! Beautiful appetizers and mostarda di fichi is already in the pantry… Buon Natale!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Laney,

      Well, it’s a pleasure to be of service, m’dear! Isn’t the Boulevardier a wonderful drink? And isn’t Mostarda di Fichi something so very special? I am glad you already have some stashed in your pantry. You are ready to celebrate. Merry Christmas to you!

  14. Comment by Amy @ Fearless Homemaker:

    Oh, what a perfect light meal! The mezzelune in particular look so wonderful, and I love that they can be largely prepared beforehand, so you can focus that evening on your friends and family in the house, rather than lots of cooking. And the Cappelletti cocktails look lovely, too. I’ll be over on Christmas Eve to sample everything. 😉

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Amy,

      I’ve made those little mushroom mezzelune since the mid-eighties, and people just gobble them up. I am so glad yo liked this one, and I hope you are all enjoying a Fearless Christmas!

  15. Comment by Amy:

    Wonderful parings, menu, and recipes. Thanks!

  16. Comment by Debbie Carilli:

    I have never tried Capelletti, but I have added it to my list. We often have Aperol spritz.
    Also the recipes look delicious! Grazie.

    • Comment by Adri:

      HI Debbie,

      If you like Aperol, then you will enjoy Cappelletti. It has become a real favorite around our home since we first tried it a little over a year ago. I bet you will find some in a shop near you. Warmest wishes for a terrific holiday season to you and yours. Cheers!

  17. Comment by Paula Barbarito Levitt:

    We are devotees of all types of Italian spirits and enjoyed learning about Cappelletti, is it readily available in the US?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Paula,

      I have seen Cappelletti at several stores here in Los Angeles, so I imagine it is in all big cities now. The Italians have a wealth of truly magnificent spirits. One could spend a lifetime exploring and tasting. Thanks so much for your comment, and I send warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

  18. Comment by Suzanne:

    I love Campari, but have never had Cappelletti, must try. Pastries and crostini make me hungry. Have to laugh about the midnight mass, that’s classic.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Greetings Suzanne,

      I hope you can find Cappelletti at a liquor store near you. I bet you will love it, and it is just perfect for this time of year. I am glad you got a laugh out of the telephone story. Every year we went through the same thing. My friend passed away a few years ago, and honestly, Christmas is not the same without our little joke. Thanks for stopping by, and warmest wishes for a great holiday season and a fab 2016!

  19. Comment by Marisa Franca @ All Our Way:

    Ciao Adri, Grazie for the heads up on the Cappelletti we love our Aperol Spritz so this will be perfect. And in keeping with the Italian touch instead of soda water we use S. Pellegrino. Yes Indeed you sometimes have to wonder at the questions people ask. I will have to try your appetizers — they look and sound delicious. Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Marisa,

      I bet you will enjoy the Cappelletti. It’s a great one to have in your home bar. I send warmest wishes for a terrific Christmas and a great 2016, and thank you so much for stopping by. Un abbraccio!

  20. Comment by Chiara:

    what a delicious idea for Christmas ,I love that crostini,one leads to another ! I wish you and you family a very Merry Christmas and a brilliant 2016 Adri, un abbraccio !

  21. Comment by Carl Wright:

    I enjoyed your introduction Adri. Although we do not have a midnight mass, the church I am lay pastor does have a Christmas Eve service, and I am asked often what day is this service.

    Those pastries look so good and succulent. Have such admiration for the time and patience to make such wonderful creations, using extraordinarily fine ingredients like hazelnut oil.

    Thank you so much for sharing, and have a wonderful holiday season! 🙂


  22. Comment by John/Kitchen Riffs:

    What a delightful post! Such a fun read. 🙂 Love Campari, but it’s rather demanding stuff, taste-wise. So a kinder cousin sounds quite welcome! Don’t know Cappelletti, but I want to make its acquaintance. Love the recipes, particularly the half-moons. But the important question (one all inquiring minds need to know) is: What time is Midnight Mass? 😀 Super post — thanks.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao John,

      So this is the new password “What time is Midnight Mass?” Ha! We always laugh about that question. I am glad you enjoyed this one, and bet you will enjoy Cappelletti. I hope you find it at a liquor store near you. I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas. Cheers!

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