Where other restaurants come and go, Aromi has been a staple on the Prague dining scene. One of the first good Prague restaurants that could be called a "destination dining” place: more than just a mere neighborhood Italian place, Aromi has been attracting successful locals from near and afar despite being located in a residential district far from the areas exposed to mass tourism. It was also the place that gave birth to Riccardo Lucque’s empire of Italian-themed restaurants and bistros. And now, after ten years of its existence, Aromi has moved to a new location, taking over the space left by Sahara Cafe next to the Vinohradské divadlo theatre.
The new Aromi is divided into two rooms: the cafe in the front will serve breakfasts (starting in November) and lighter meals, while the larger room in the back hosts the actual restaurant. The room is airy, with high ceilings and lots of natural light from the courtyard through the large windows that open into the terrace. The place is elegant and has an “old money” feel. The distribution of tables is generous, making it a great place for dates, family reunions and big anniversary or jubilee festivities. It is also great for other types of meetings: business deals by shady business people whispering their propositions to each other, which was something Sahara was kinda famous for. So fingers crossed Aromi will be known for its food rather than its infamous patrons.
The food is classic Italian, as in the old Aromi: a short menu with about five appetizers, five primi and five secondi, plus their usual selection of fresh fish and steak. Lots of mostly Italian wines. We asked for a glass of something interesting, and the Italian waiter/sommelier obliged, and was actually quite happy to do so. He poured us a glass of Contadino from Mount Etna, fermented in a plastic barrel, and told us Aromi’s patrons may be a bit conservative when it comes to wine, but if you don’t want to be, you don’t have to. Just ask for something different.
The food was hard to fault, the stars being the mains. The ravioli with creamy pumpkin filling, crunchy almonds and prosciutto smothered in butter were so good we still think of them today. The only complaint we had? We ordered the small portion. Stupid. Don’t do that. We also have a rule in our household that when we see bone marrow in the menu, we have to order it. The veal ossobuco with saffron risotto and root vegetables did not disappoint. The Aromi group has been known for risottos that come in different flavors but the rice is always perfectly cooked, and anything on top of it is just a nice bonus to have. We loved the risotto with the al dente vegetables and bone marrow so much we would happily eat it without the well prepared piece of meat on top of it.
We also ordered the scallops with smooth cauliflower puree and slices of raw cauliflower and cocoa nibs. We loved the dish but one of the three scallops was a tad salty. The only dish we were not totally happy about was the soup with the langoustine: while the langoustine was sweet and beautiful and the broth full of flavor, we just wish it was not full of the passatelli that were a bit harder to eat and just overpowered everything else.
For dessert, we had the almond semifreddo with marinated pumpkin and coffee. The dessert is presented beautifully, in a mason jar with flowers and caramelized almonds. We could not agree on it: Jan liked the pumpkin marinated in ginger, which added a bit of kick, but otherwise thought the dessert was just passable. Zuzi thought that it was on the sweeter side, she would still order it again.
Aromi suffers from something we wrote a while ago: poor choice of music. The soundtrack we listened to could be described as “elevator music meets Thai massage parlor”, which makes very little sense. Why not Italian classical music or even opera, which would fit this elegance perfectly?
Also, do prepare yourself for a slower pace. While we hate to be rushed in a restaurant, we also found the service to be really slow: our two-course meal with one shared dessert took over two hours, and we had to ask for attention towards the end of it. But that may just be a small niggle that will be ironed out as the team finds its rhythm in the new place.
While it is easy to get yourself caught up in the coolest spots that offer artisanal hot dogs or hipster pastrami, it is nice to have a safe bet with classic cooking like Aromi in town. When the social stakes are high and you need to impress, Aromi will not disappoint. The beautiful room, the atmosphere, the solid cooking and the wines will make for a very enjoyable date, family reunion or celebration.