Invented by Gaspare Campari in the 1860s at the Bass Bar in Turin, Campari is an Italian liqueur made of a secret blend of natural ingredients including herbs, spices, bark, and fruit that made its way into the Ernest Hemingway-endorsed suite of drinks that tipples like the Americano and Negroni are built around.
One of the most-photographed drinks in America and likely the world due to its Instagram-ready looks and tendency to be served in places with the class as well as good lighting, the three-ingredient (Campari, sweet vermouth and gin) Negroni, a favorite of Neil Patrick Harris, celebrated its 100th birthday three years ago and is still living its best life as a centenarian.
Though the Negroni isn’t one of the signature cocktails on offer at Michelin-starred Italian American restaurant Don Angie in NYC’s West Village, there are a number of Campari-infused items that rotate through the menu — including the ribs.
Created by the husband-and-wife team of Scott Tacinelli and Angela Rito and featured in their 2021 cookbook Italian American the red-stained ribs are finger-sticking good thanks to a Campari-infused glaze that’s both bitter and sweet thanks to the addition of orange and honey.
Loosely inspired by the reddish spare ribs that frequent the menus of Chinese-American takeout joints, Tacinelli and Rito’s ribs are somewhat of an adaptation of a recipe for the French classic duck à l’orange they created that also added Campari into the mix.
“Campari is very sweet, bitter and herbaceous, so I think it balances really well with other things that are herbal or have acidity,” Rito tells InsideHook. “In this particular recipe, we use a good amount of orange juice because the acidity from the juice balances with the sweetness of the Campari. Campari also adds bitterness, but it’s not overpowering bitterness. It complements everything else really well and adds a layer of complexity to it.”
Garlic and ginger are also tasting notes with the pork and help provide some evenness to what could be an overpowering dish thanks to the 1½ cups of Campari that go into the glaze. “We balanced it so it has a wider appeal to people than the Negroni, which I feel can be slightly polarizing,” Tacinelli says. “Some people really don’t like the bitterness at all and other people love it. The ribs have the essence of Campari, but it’s more balanced so most people will hopefully enjoy it.”
Most will — as long as they have plenty of napkins on hand. “You’re eating these with your hands and you’re going to need a lot of napkins,” Rito says. Or maybe a wet-nap? “Yeah. Because the regular napkins are sticking to your fingers with these,” Tacinelli says.
Time to find out.
Don Angie’s Campari and Orange Sticky Ribs
Ingredients for the ribs
- 2 racks of baby back ribs (3 to 4 pounds total)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 3 tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for the sauce
- 2 tbsp. neutral oil, such as vegetable
- 1 head garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1½ cups Campari
- 1 cup orange juice (strained of pulp)
- 1 cup rice vinegar 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 orange, sliced into half-moons, for garnish
- Make the ribs: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a sheet pan with foil.
- Clean the ribs by rinsing them with cold water and patting them dry. Using a clean, dry kitchen towel, remove the membrane on the underside of the racks by pulling gently. It should come off in one piece.
- In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, ground ginger, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Rub the ribs all over with the spice mixture and place them meaty-side up on the lined sheet pan. Cover tightly with foil, place in the oven, and bake for 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, fresh ginger, and salt and cook, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until the garlic is fragrant and just turning pale gold, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the Campari, orange juice, vinegar, sugar, honey, and red food coloring (if using) and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and keep the sauce at a simmer, stirring often, until its volume reduces by three-quarters, about 35 to 45 minutes. Large bubbles should appear, and the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don’t be afraid to simmer the sauce until it’s viscous. Sticky is the intention here.
- Stir in the lemon juice. You should have 1½ to 2 cups of thick, sticky sauce. Set aside somewhere warm.
- Remove the ribs from the oven and check for doneness—a cake tester or tip of a sharp knife should slide in easily. If not, return to the oven for another 10 to 20 minutes, until tender.
- Allow the ribs to rest, still covered, until cool enough to handle. Cut between the bones into individual pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Carefully pour the warm Campari glaze over the ribs and toss carefully to coat. (If the glaze has cooled and thickened too much to toss, reheat it over medium-low heat, stirring continually, until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.)
- To serve, place the ribs on a platter and top with sliced oranges. Leftover ribs keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
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