Despite its elegant fit-out, complete with commanding black granite communal table, grey marble bar and textured tan-and-black leather seating, Brighton newcomer Aromi has the ambience of a relaxed neighbourhood eatery. It opened just a couple of months ago and already has a committed coterie of regulars.
“Our neighbours call us up and say, ‘We’re coming in for the duck’,” says Salvatore Montella, who owns the 40-seater along with Paolo Masciopinto. The two met working in the kitchens at recently closed city diner Sarti and South Yarra’s Bar Carolina, both are by Italian dining maven Jo Mammone (also Tetto, Il Bacaro). Masciopinto looks after the kitchen, while Montella is in charge of front-of-house.
Back to that duck. Gippsland duck is almost always on the menu in some form. At the moment it’s confit with parsnip puree and dark-green fried nettles, but next week it might come with smoked almonds and chanterelles. If you’re not here for the duck, it must be the pasta – feather-light pumpkin tortelli; pappardelle made with chestnut flour; or spaghetti infused with tomato – the silky pasta turned a soft blush pink – topped with spanner crab and shaved, toasted macadamia nuts.
The menu takes inspiration from Maciopinto and Montella’s home regions of Piemonte and Napoli respectively, using Victorian produce and minimal imports, with the exception of the Kurieto crockery from Japan.
“It doesn’t make you more Italian to use Italian products, especially as we have so much beautiful produce here,” says Montella.
From the list of bite-sized stuzzichini (small plates), order the gnocco fritto (fried dough), which comes wrapped in house-made Wagyu bresaola and has a soft and smoky scamorza centre.
Aromi’s showpiece dessert is Masciopinto’s deluxe take on the monte bianco, an Italian winter classic named for its resemblance to Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc. Here it involves hazelnut shortcrust pastry filled with frangipane and house-made marron glace (candied chestnuts), topped with a perfectly curved spiral of chestnut puree. It’s plated over a spinning record player, giving it an Insta-ready appearance.
Another exception to the minimal imports rule is the short and interesting wine list – just 24 drops – with Italy and other European countries well-represented, plus a couple of Antipodean choices. And Italian lagers are out, but local brews such as Red Hill Pilsner are in.
312 New Street, Brighton
(03) 9592 1592
Mon to Thu 5.30pm–10.30pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–3pm, 5.30–11pm