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Aroma, Rome -- Like No Other Place

A rainy Saturday night in Rome. Gloomy atmosphere, chill in the air as we headed by taxi for a dining experience at the highly touted Aroma restaurant. We entered what we discovered was a hotel as well as a restaurant, lodged in a fully and splendidly upgraded  building dating back to the 1500s.

There Bruno Papeleo, our elegant host, was waiting for us. He proceeded to fill us in on the background of what was originally a convent and then a noble residence that was ultimately taken over by the present owner, Count Manfredi. He opened the twelve-room, two-suite hotel in 2003. Seven years later, his nephew began running the place, and it was during that time that Aroma opened. 

Our elegant host, Bruno Papeleo - click to enlarge
Our elegant host, Bruno Papeleo

The terrace on the top floor of this ancient building was filled with people beginning their evening with a cocktail and a smoke (permitted in this outdoor setting).  It seemed to us very much a neighborhood crowd as conversations spilled from one table to another.

We were on our own, but happy in this inviting setting, drinking excellent champagne, taking in the view of the Colle Oppio (Emperor Nero’s Gardens), and sampling mini slices of asparagus pizza and other tasty hors d’ouevres  which foreshadowed what was to be a  unique dining experience. 

Host Bruno Papaleo explained: “The cuisine in Aroma is Mediterranean with small touches of the regions of and around Rome. The setting is very historic, and the area is a nice, quiet place, like a small village where everyone knows everyone else. There is a touristic crowd around the Coliseum (visible from the restaurant). From some of the hotel rooms, you can see the changing rooms of the gladiators. But the tourism doesn’t extend into the Domus which is where we are.”

“Domus” – the word rang a bell. Then we remembered: it was the name of the neighborhood where Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires and the man who became the first Latin American pope in Catholic history, chose to stay during the election process, walking the long way to and from the Vatican each day of the election process.

Moved by this recollection, we wanted to continue our conversation with Bruno, but the headwaiter approached with news that our table was ready. And so reluctantly we took our leave of the enthusiastic and informed GM.

The dining room was crowded even though the rain was still coming down. We were seated at a corner table. Right outside was a beautiful and memorable and unobstructed view of the Coliseum. One of us had the feeling of being in a fantastic film directed by Luchino Visconti.

Then the dining began as star Chef Giuseppe Di Iorio supervised the serving up of culinary treats. The name of the restaurant is a tribute to the city of Rome and Mediterranean cuisine aromas. We experienced it all.

View of the Coliseum from a window at Aroma - click to enlarge
View of the Coliseum from a window at Aroma

There was tasty mint flavored roasted scallops on a fennel fondue with fried leeks, medallion of sea bass with olives, homemade “Torciglioni” pasta with anchovies, toasted pine nut, fresh tomato and dill flavored bread crumbs.   We sampled all of these and the taste still lingers - -impeccably prepared, tasteful, excellent food in every way. We enhanced our dining with a bottle from one of the 300 labels stocked by sommelier Martin Pechev.

Sated, we still managed tasting of excellent desserts: strawberry and yogurt, cold duo, and ricotta cheese soufflé with milk heart and raspberry sorbet.

Choosing from among the 300 labels - click to enlarge
Choosing from among the 300 labels

We ended with compliments to the chef and the staff for work well done. There are restaurants in Rome, and there are restaurants in Rome that like a Carlos Visconti movie stand apart from the rest.

Aroma is definitely apart from and like no other place.  

Palazzo Manfredi
Via Labicana 125
00184 Roma

Phone: +06 77591380
Web:  http://www.palazzomanfredi.com

Photographs by Harvey Frommer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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