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.
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
|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
|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
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
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
Sated, we still managed tasting of excellent desserts: strawberry and
yogurt, cold duo, and ricotta cheese soufflé with milk heart and
Choosing from among the 300 labels
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
Via Labicana 125
Phone: +06 77591380
Photographs by Harvey Frommer