Amara, which opened in October 2022, is our love letter to the contemporary coastal Italian lifestyle, as seen through the lens of Madison, Wisconsin. During its inception, our team channeled Italy as our muse, especially during the height of the pandemic, to bring health, sustainability, wellness, and beauty to our lives, community, and industry.
Our guiding force was the Mediterranean diet and way of life, which emphasizes the consumption of fresh, simple, and quality local ingredients, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and olive oil. We desired real food that wasn't too heavy, and incorporated more plant-based options into our diets. Fish and seafood were also integral parts of our culinary vision, while meat, though present, was not always the center of the plate and was raised sustainably.
Wine, especially lighter styles, is a daily staple, and we enjoy Rosé at brunch and Aperol spritzes, mules, and other fresh, low ABV cocktails before meals. In addition to wine, we also explored local liqueurs and spirits, such as lemoncello from the Amalfi Coast and the Italian herbal liqueur Amaro, which are traditionally consumed neat or with a bit of ice as sipping digestivos.
However, above all, we craved the Mediterranean spirit of dining, which emphasizes community and connection. We envisioned a bustling yet intimate restaurant where our guests could connect over a meal, discussing everything from travel to music, culture, and politics, and reveling in the sense of possibility that comes with dining at Amara in Madison, Wisconsin.
THE PURSUIT OF BALANCE
The more we looked into coastal Italy as our vehicle for health, sustainability, wellness and beauty, the idea of balance became our primary focus. We strived for balance on the plate, harmony in the glass, and in many ways, a better work-life balance, to prioritize spending time with family and friends. We wanted to provide a venue for a slower pace of life, enjoying a good meal and chatting with friends. Behind the scenes, we wanted our kitchen steeped in Slow Food, harkening Carlo Petrini, of the Slow Food Movement, who championed a more local, seasonal, and artisanal approach to food production and consumption.
WHERE DID THE NAME "AMARA" COME FROM?
In Italian, the word "Amara" means bitter. Bitter flavors are highly regarded in Italian cuisine and drinking culture.
In the food world, bitter greens are used to add depth and character to salads, sautées, and stews. In the beverage world, Amaro is a distinct Italian liquor that is celebrated for its bittersweet flavor profile and digestive properties. Bitter flavors are also widely used in cocktails, and have been embraced by the American palate in recent years, with dark chocolate, wine, coffee, and hops all experiencing a surge in popularity for their health benefits and botanical properties.
While "amara" means "bitter" in Italian, the word has deep connections to the concept of love in languages spoken throughout the Mediterranean region.
amore means "love" in Italian, amará means "will love" in Spanish, amara means "sweetheart" or "someone dear" in Arabic, and amára derives from the Ancient Greek term "Amáranthos," which means "everlasting flower" from the Amaranth flowering plant.
The relationship between bitter and sweet is core to the art of Italian cooking and drinking, but also together makeup one of the most profound and complex phenomena in human experience, working hand in hand and deeply ingrained in our daily lives.
At its core, the bittersweet experience is a paradox. It is the simultaneous experience of joy and pain, happiness and sadness, love and loss. This paradox is rooted in the nature of life itself, a journey of ups and downs, filled with moments of beauty and love and moments of pain. We cannot experience pleasure without pain, nor can we fully appreciate the light without first experiencing darkness. This concept extends beyond the physical realm and into the realm of human emotion, where we often find that the most cherished memories are tinged with bittersweet emotions.
Now, as we unveil Amara, it is through this bittersweet experience that we find meaning and purpose, and by embracing both the bitter and the sweet that we find happiness and fulfillment moving forward.