The best thing about my job is meeting so many amazing producers and chefs who are so passionate about what they do. I’ve been a big fan of Paolo Masciopinto’s cooking since his stints at Sarti, Il Bacaro and Bar Carolina so I was excited to learn that he has recently started his own venture – Aromi in Brighton, in partnership with Salvatore Montella.
The name of the restaurant – ‘Aromi’ – illustrates the connection to Italy’s famous food culture and is based on aromatics (herbs) from each region to enrich their dishes. Paolo says he wants locals to have a great time with great service, food and wine. Stepping in to the restaurant is like being greeted by a big warm hug. In typical Italian style, the service is warm, friendly and welcoming and is all about family and conviviality. Unfortunately for me I don’t live near Brighton but I will definitely be coming back for more.
The restaurant is effortlessly chic with a vertical garden taking centre stage, towering over a black granite communal table. The garden is filled with herbs in the middle of it, or they are soaking up the sunshine on the front footpath. There are only about 40 covers which gives it an intimate vibe. The menu showcases seasonal and local produce with a unique farm to table experience for diners. Even the menus are made in house so they can adapt quickly and easily to the change of seasons and even weekly if necessary.
On the starter menu you can feast on delicious dishes like gnoccho frutti paired with soft cheese and wagyu bresaola, Sydney rocky oysters or yearling beef tartare with smoked egg yolk and artichokes, just to name a few. Of course pasta is a definite highlight. Think spaghetto tomato with crab and macadamia, a comforting risotto with pork ribs, red wine, fontina and hazelnuts and a beetroot tagliatelle with quail and parmesan fondu. Fellow sweet tooths make sure you don’t miss the the richly delicious Chestnut Monte Bianco, affectionately called the ‘king of desserts’ and dates back centuries.
On my visit, I had the pleasure of joining Paolo to cook the beetroot tagliatelle from scratch. I’ve always wanted to learn the craft of pasta making, but usually I am lazy and leave it to the experts. During the class he tells me about growing up in Italy and the difference between different varieties of pasta and regions. Paolo definitely believes “fresh is best” not only when it comes to pasta but everything on the menu. He tells me about the differences between dry and fresh pasta; dry generally won’t contain egg so it’s more forgiving in the kitchen. When fresh pasta is made from scratch, a fine flour is used (tipo 00) and usually mixed with egg and then kneaded before it is rolled.
I learned the art of cutting pasta on the chitarra (guitar in Italian) – a stringed instrument used to cut pasta. You first use a rolling pin to flatten the dough on top of the strings, then press the dough through the wires (it takes a lot of elbow grease!). Paola prefers to still do things the authentic way when it comes to pasta making even if it takes longer. He and his team make the bread and pasta at Aromi from scratch and even wood-smoke the fish and meats in the kitchen.