Potent and bitter, amaro is an Italian digestif that's beloved by forward-thinking bartenders but perhaps a bit challenging for the average drinker.

Potent and bitter, amaro is an Italian digestif that’s beloved by forward-thinking bartenders but perhaps a bit challenging for the average drinker.

So I was surprised and delighted to discover Rigsby’s new cocktail menu, created by mixed-drink ingenue Nicolene Schwartz, centers on amari—each drink made with Campari or Aperol or Fernet Branca, and each more bitter than the last. Finally, here are drinks that measure up to Rigsby’s sophisticated brand of Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

An amari bar is a bold move for a restaurant whose most recent ho-hum drinks list included a pomegranate martini. But it’s just one reason why I adore Rigsby’s, Kent Rigsby’s Short North restaurant that refuses to act its age (26, which in restaurant years is well into the golden years).

Rigsby’s unveiled a branding makeover in 2012, too, in the form of a redesigned logo and menu to match the artsy-industrial-chic space. A dated watercolor motif was ditched for a clean, mod vibe reminiscent of ’60s-era air travel. New menus resemble passports, which is appropriate—an evening at Rigsby’s always feels like a quick trip overseas.

Just a few of the dishes I’ve been enamored with this year: Cacciucco, a steaming bowl of garlicky tomato broth brimming with shellfish and other sea creatures; handmade pappardelle topped with a stew of rabbit, porcini and tomatoes; buttery prosciutto-wrapped cod with roasted seasonal veggies; and a summery Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio of marinated tomato slices topped with greens and parmesan shavings.

Photos by Jodi Miller