Service con brio, great breakfast and fancy dessert at Aroma Caffe
DURING the quiet months of lockdown, restaurants have kept going by selling take away meals and coffees to go. Some kept their heads above water, managing to pay furloughed staff and cover the rent, while a few closed for good.
There was excitement when restaurants re-opened for socially-distanced sit down patrons, and then some disappointment a few weeks later, when service was restricted to the hours between 8 am and 3 pm. For morning larks (those who rise with the sun) these times work well, while night owls, who find themselves alert and ready to party until the early hours, are obliged by the 6 pm curfew to kick back at home.
Caffe Aroma along Enterprise Road is the perfect destination for an early riser in search of a well-cooked breakfast. Last week, after satisfying health checks and applying hand sanitiser at the entrance to the shopping complex, we followed a pathway to the green lawns and lush flower beds surrounding Caffe Aroma. Tables with crisp white table cloths and comfortable upright chairs were set up invitingly under the warm winter sunshine, spaced according to the requirements of social distancing.
It was six months since my last visit to Caffe Aroma in January this year, but I recognised my usual waiter behind his face mask. Attentive and lively as ever, he served us con brio, bringing a steaming hot medium cappuccino for me and hot chocolate, attractively served in a tall glass mug, for George. It was early in the day, but patrons continued to arrive, and soon many of the tables were occupied.
Most of the breakfasts at Caffe Aroma are named after Italian opera composers or philosophers. An exception is the Callas breakfast of scrambled egg with cheese, olive tapenade, avocado and roasted cherry tomatoes. Maria Callas, a famous Greek soprano opera singer, died of a broken heart, after her husband, Aristotle, left her to marry Jacky Onassis.
Rossini, who wrote the opera The Barber of Seville, would have been thrilled if he had ordered the Rossini breakfast, consisting of two eggs, bacon, sausage and mushrooms, served with toast, real butter and strawberry jam. Medium to soft, the eggs were perfectly fried and the mushrooms sauteed rather than stewed. The plate was prettily presented, with a small green pea shoot adding a touch of artistry.
Croissant with scrambled egg and bacon, decorated with a few micro greens, was quite delicious. The croissant was fresh and large enough to satisfy my hunger pangs, and the scrambled egg perfectly cooked. Herbs form an important part of Italian cuisine, and the herb garden at Aroma Caffe is burgeoning with parsley, sage rosemary, thyme, basil and rocket. Chef Marina, who owns Caffe Aroma together with her husband Walter Picci, told me she visits the herb garden ten to twenty times a day. She also told me that her son, Alberto, who is passionate about cooking, has joined her in the kitchen.
Aged 18, Alberto has recently returned from the Italian Island of Sardinia, where he attended the haute cuisine cooking school, Accademia Casa Puddu, founded by Michelin-starred Chef Roberto Petza.
He now makes all the pasta at Aroma Caffe, and on Saturdays, following the trend of many young chefs, creates a series of unusual and fancy desserts, such as popcorn gelato and pecorino gelato.
Alberto had intended to visit Vietnam this year, for a different kind of work experience, and to explore the sweet, sour, bitter, salty and hot flavours combining in this popular Asian cuisine. His plans having been foiled by the arrival of coronavirus and resulting strictures on travelling, he now spends any spare time available in the cheese factory he has set up at home, making artisanal cheeses.
Specialities are mozzarella, ricotta, scamorza and dolce sardo, some flavoured with thyme from the garden, others with chilli and saffron.
Caffe Aroma, like most other restaurants and cafes, is trying hard to keep going in difficult times, when many people are reluctant to leave their homes.
Chef Marina says that all safety measures are observed in the kitchen, and their many loyal customers feel safe eating out in a beautiful and spacious garden.
So night owls, even if you claim to do your best work and have the most fun in the midnight hour, set your alarm clock for early rising, and enjoy breakfast or lunch at Caffe Aroma. A Matter Of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff