Nightlife

My Christmas Song For You

by Marc Keepper
Contributor
Friday Dec 22, 2006
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Just like a curdled friendship, a bad frittata can really weigh you down. And the last thing you need is for that great Sunday brunch to round out the weekend leaving a bad taste in your mouth. With their new Sunday spread, Aroma owners Alexandra Degiorgio and husband Vito Polosa protect us from bad brunch woes by serving it up old school style.

Aroma is a neighborhood restaurant that largely goes unnoticed, but there is a unique life to be discovered under this east side roof. During the brunch’s soft opening Degiorgio handles guests above ground like a seasoned pro, multitasking quite elegantly amidst the muted shuffle of employees and food critics, while Polosa (along with Sous Chef Shawn Ramirez) keeps both eyes on the kitchen below. Finished dishes are hoisted topside through a dumb waiter; a process that beats carrying trays up and down the steep and narrow staircase that separates the restaurant from the exposed brick of the building next door.

The restaurant’s train car layout calls for plenty of light from the bar frontward and further back, the dark inner cubbyhole provides the perfect nook for a serious Sunday hangover. Who knows if the pea green walls were leftovers from a previous life (the restaurant was once a streetwear boutique), and who cares? The wood, steel, brick, and muted earth-colored scheme give this space real charm. The only thing noticeably lacking are wall decorations; well-chosen prints or artifacts from the Italian countryside are sure to help transport our taste buds to the motherland.

Things get a bit more interesting downstairs. With intimate views of a rustic outdoor courtyard, the communal space (a two-room area that holds up to 35 guests) ushers in fantasies of romantic snow-filled nights, and with antiqued wooden tables, old school chandeliers and an original 200 year old wall, there’s no reason to believe you’re not in the old world.

All-in-all, the noontime rush passes anticlimactically, despite a surprise visit from celebrity and gossip columnist Michael Musto; there’s a slight flutter of rubber soled shoes as he settles in. Too bad he sits just long enough to read the paper, look through his mail and scarf down lunch; we’d have passed along a compliment or two before he fled the scene like a vampire before garlic.

Menu highlights include roast pork shank hash, grilled skirt steak with pecorino crusted tomato (Aroma’s version of steak & eggs), a delectable Satur Farms vegetables frittata, and the Aglianico braised pork shank omelette (an Italian take on the traditional Western omelette).

"We wanted to take a traditional brunch menu and tweak it a bit," says Degiorgio, explaining how they wanted to keep the menu unique enough to set the restaurant apart from the neighboring competition.

But these days, fierce competition in the area comes more from the sights and sounds of construction than from those of rivaling kitchens. Degiorgio describes it as "a nightmare, but that’s the East Village these days," she says. The space across the street is slowly transforming into a small park, which promises to add to Aroma’s prime real estate once completed. In the meantime we’ll have sweet sounds of classical Spanish guitar to disguise distant jackhammers.

Keep in mind the restaurant handles its own events (a helpful holiday hint), including the Winemaker Dinner Series that pairs wine with food from the same region; with over 150 wines to choose from, meals are sure to stay interesting for a while.

Whether you’re planning a party or just stopping in for a quick bite, Aroma’s provincial charm takes it from ’the little restaurant that could’ to a grand little neighborhood spot interesting enough to look forward to.

Aroma is located at 36 E 4th St, between Lafayette & Bowery. For more information call 212-375-0100 or go to www.aromanyc.com

by Andrea Marcovicci

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Released through Andreasong, Ms. Marcovicci’s own recording label, the CD is available as an exclusive offering on her website, Marcovicci Collection

More information (inlcuding bio) can be found at Marcovicci.com

Marc Keepper has been writing about movies, television, theater, sports, books & music-- interviewing DJ’s, singers and producers-- since 1999.

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