Fans cheer Sweet Aroma's return to Delavan

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By Joan Neeno, Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DELAVAN—Word got out quickly: Sweet Aroma Ristorante was reopening after a nine-year hiatus at the same spot in Delavan with the same owners.

The Italian restaurant that Phillip Buffa and Gianni Nudo closed nearly a decade ago seems to have a devoted following. People have long memories for good food, and just four months after re-opening, Sweet Aroma is doing solid business.

The name is accurate. The moment we got near the front door, I could smell the garlic. To me, that is a very sweet aroma.

The start of our visit was a bit rocky. We sat at the bar until our friends joined us and a table opened. While the bar was impressively stocked, the bartender seemed flustered and inexperienced. I ordered a Kir Royale, a simple cocktail off the menu. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, either.

Things improved once Eric and Cheryl arrived and we were seated at our table. The converted house is cozy and tastefully decorated, and a couple of walls have been removed to open up the space. Given our close quarters and how many people were seated around us, the noise was thankfully manageable. It was really nice to be able to sit at a restaurant and have a conversation without shouting.

We started with the Napoli Artichoke ($8), which was stuffed with Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese. Eric and I debated how to approach the artichoke leaves. He started from tender base, while I nibbled from the spiky tip. As Cheryl pointed out, I was able to get more of the breadcrumbs. While the artichoke was more work to eat than a basket of calamari, it was awfully tasty.

We also split a Sicilian Arancini ($9), which is a large risotto ball stuffed with meat and cheese in the center, rolled in breadcrumbs and baked. The crumbs were golden brown, and the rice inside was firm but soft. The melted cheese and meat center made for a delicious “rice meatball,” big enough for a table of four to share.

If you visit, it's safe to say you won't leave hungry. All entrees come with soup and salad. The evening's soup, a pasta fagioli, came in a bowl rather than the customary cup. The beans and chicken were a bit overcooked, but the rich broth more than compensated. The salad, served family style, was full of oil-marinated tomatoes and onions with a light and tasty Italian dressing on the side.

For an entrée, Eric chose the Rigatoni al Basilico ($15), which featured crumbled Italian sausage and pasta. The sauce was a “light” tomato basil sauce, which appeared to be thinned out with wine. The flavor was more complex and nuanced than the sweet basil marinara that topped most of the other entrees.

One disappointment: Our server seemed to lack knowledge of the menu. She struggled to answer basic questions about the sauces or recommend wines. A little education on the menu would make for a better experience.

Cheryl ordered the Braciole ($19), which was sirloin wrapped around breadcrumbs, cheese and crumbed sausage and then served over pasta with marinara. There were no complaints from that corner of the table.

The Linguine Fontaine ($19) called Richard's name. It's one of his favorite dishes—fresh clams in a white wine sauce over pasta. It was light on seasoning, but the pasta and clams were beautifully cooked.

I ordered the Veal Parmigiana ($21) and was happy with the choice. The breaded veal cutlet was crisp on the outside but moist and tender inside. It was served with a bed of spaghetti and topped with marinara and melted mozzarella. It was all excellent, although the sauce was just too bright for me, for lack of a better term. The tomato was so sweet and assertive that I longed for a little of the wine from Eric's sauce to tone it down. That's really just a matter of taste.

Not surprisingly, we were full after all of that pasta. We had four to-go boxes awaiting us. Still, we had room to split a piece of tiramisu, which was light and tasty.

Overall, we had a lovely evening at Sweet Aroma. It was good to catch up with friends over good food in a nice atmosphere. Welcome back.

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