One of Silver Lake's newest full-service restaurants is Aroma, a neighborhood Italian spot which took over the improbable former location of Puspuseria Usulatan in the mini-mall next to Silversun Liquors. The room has been completely redone, with a partially open kitchen and a few tables in the first room, and a step up to the main room which accomodates a dozen or so tables. My confrere Chris Rubin first recommended Aroma when he stopped by and found the chef used to cook at Valentino. Indeed, he has a sure hand with classic Italian preparations. If you're in the mood for standbys like veal marsala, seafood linguini or fettucini Alfredo, this is the place. At first glance, the menu seems almost too traditional, but the specials show a little more variety, so make sure to listen to the whole list. To start, we tried a seafood salad which combined shrimp, mango, arugula, capers and asparagus.
mango shrimp salad
It wasn't a combination I would have come up with, but somehow it all worked well. The mango salad was refreshing, but our other appetizer, the mushroom timbale in mascarpone sauce with parmesan crisps, was so rich that I could only eat a spoonful or two. The mascarpone might be overkill on that one.
Our mains were a veal chop with mushroom sauce, the seafood linguini ($14), scampi with garlic and white wine ($14) and veal marsala. Matt enjoyed the huge veal chop (around 17.95, I think). My scampi was a little tough, but it's hard to get good shrimp. The roasted potatoes and carrots and green beans were just the right amount of side veggies, and the garlic and white wine sauce was great to sop up the potatoes with. I'm a garlic lover, so I didn't mind the large slices of garlic dotting the sauce, but they might have seemed a little unfinished for some people.
scampi with garlic and wine sauce
I didn't really check out the wine list, since we brought two bottles of zinfandel. Corkage was $6.We tried all three desserts -- a kind of bland, wobbly panna cotta, a liquory tiramisu that wasn't bad but could have used some of the mascarpone from the mushroom dish, and a nicely creamy but cold crème brûlée.
The verdict: Aroma is a pleasant spot with competently-made Italian food, but not exactly a "worth the drive" destination. I wish the menu had more imagination or some modern touches, and a little less cream sauce/wine sauce/caper sauce. It's very similar to Cafe Capriccio on Vermont in terms of prices and menu. The room is a little spare and cramped, and they might want to rethink the thrift shop art, which doesn't seem to be hung with any irony.
Dinner for two should run $50-$60 with a glass of wine each or corkage and your own bottle.
2903 W. Sunset Blvd.
(323)644-2833 (closed Mondays)