I missed Just Pasta restaurant when it closed. I wasn’t a regular, but it was the perfect place for a summer weekday lunch on the porch, or a charming evening inside anytime. The food was always good, and the service always spot on. The truth is I missed it until the first meal I ate at Trattoria Aroma. Dare I say it…it’s even better now.
My recent visit on a Saturday night suggests that I’m not alone. Tables were full, people were smiling, the crowd was three deep at the bar when we got there…and when we left.
Buffalo has a lot of excellent Italian restaurants, but in my opinion none better than Trattoria Aroma on Bryant. Not only is the food outstanding, but the place is stylish, the service good, and the patio is still perfect for the summer weekday lunch.
On this brisk Saturday night four of us ventured to Aroma after an enjoyable bottle of chardonnay at Just Vino. As much as I enjoy Just Vino there was a hint of regret as we walked directly past the bar immediately to our seats. This is a nice full space for a restaurant bar, with a few tables for the adventurous diner, and a great spot for a cocktail anytime. The main room is aptly separated from the drinking crowd, but still part of the buzz.
The dining area is a comfortably large room divided by a row of booths with pillars stretching to the ceiling. The colors run bold with deep red walls, black trim and dark wood. Reminders of the Italian heritage dot the walls.
Like Italy itself Trattoria Aroma is about maintaining a simple but hard-to-find balance – casual yet elegant, full flavored yet delicate, brilliant yet humble. Their extensive menu will leave you pressed to make a decision, and no doubt dreaming of your return trip.
A basket of heart-warming Italian bread, accompanied by herbed Italian olive oil, took the edge off as we listened to an efficient explanation of the specials by our waitress.
For our starters we ordered:
- Arancini con Coniglio – Braised rabbit and goat cheese stuffed risotto with a romesco sauce ($10). Three deep fried balls, crispy on the outside, light and delicately flavored on the inside.
- Insalata Caesar – Hearts of romaine, grilled calabrese bread croutons, shaved pecorino, anchovy filet, roasted garlic-parsley dressing ($8). Beautifully presented, this isn’t the traditional Caesar dressing but every bit as good.
- Arugula Greens – Roasted beets, grilled parma prosciutto, fried leeks, dried cranberries, goat cheese, tomato-roasted garlic vinaigrette ($9). My wife commented that this was one of the best salads she’s ever had, and believe me she doesn’t throw compliments like that out lightly.
- Grilled Romaine – Prosciutto, roasted red pepper, toasted walnut, gorgonzola, roasted tomato vinaigrette ($10). Someone used the word “awesome”.
For the mains we ordered:
- Lamb Shank – roasted orange and mint-braised, Provençal roasted potatoes, grilled leek-pecorino romano pan gravy ($27).
- Brined Berkshire Pork Chop – Potato strata, grilled radicchio-pear-gorgonzola insalata, grappa butter ($26)
- Wild Caught King Salmon – scallion risotto, cauliflower, fennel soubise, romesco ($28).
- Vitello Involtini – Veal scaloppini rolled with eggplant, parma prosciutto, fire roasted peppers, & house-made mozzarella. Polenta, chili flake oil, house red sauce ($26).
Each dish was better than the next. The orange and mint with the braised lamb is a great combination. The Berkshire pork was succulent, the wild caught Salmon was even better than you could hope, and veal (Vitello Involtini) magnificently presented and every bit as tasty. Between you and me these prices are extraordinarily reasonable (don’t tell management). Like all truly good kitchen’s they do a great job in building a depth of flavors in each dish. These four offer a nice representation of the diverse “Italian” offering at Aroma. In addition they offer some outstanding “house-made” pasta dishes- my favorite is anything with the pappardelle, a full selection of brick oven pizzas, and a long list of meat and seafood dishes.
Often we list the menu items we missed but wanted to try. In this case it’s almost everything on the full figured menu. Check it out here. Trattoria Aroma is open for lunch Mon-Fri, brunch Sunday, dinner seven days a week.
Aroma does it right with drinks as well. They have fine list of craft beers, a good looking menu of cocktails and an excellent wine list. We sampled the 2006 Roagna Langhe Rosso from Piedmont. You’ll find everything listed here.
The Aroma Group plans to open its third location, at 4840 North French Road in Amherst later this month. While some of the menu items will be unique to that location, rustic Italian, house made pasta and brick oven pizza will be featured. Check back for more on that next week.
311 Bryant Street, Buffalo NY 14222