aroma - a kitchen and wine bar at 36 east fourth st......delicious, interesting, lovely italian wine list and yes virginia, there is atmosphere. went with about 8 people on saturday night after the theatre. i'd called earlier to secure some of the limited group seating or knew we'd be lined up on the stools at the bar. it's a lovely, rich, romantic atmosphere......and as it happens - it also has a new dining room. they assured me that we'd be seated comfortably in their new dining space, so we entered the bar area and were immediately asked to follow the hostess through a small door, down a steep, narrow flight of stairs taking us back outside the bldg, thru a small alleyway and then on into the kitchen. all the while the hostess kept promising that she was taking us the most comfortable route. having been to la esquina, i couldn't decide if this was the new conceit or really the only way but it was more like a tiny adventure in dining. we arrived at a lovely wine cellar room with one long table that seats about 22 people lighted with small crystal chandeliers. i was hooked.
the wines were heavenly - bratinis, a fruili white. colle dei bardellini, a ligurian white. tramonti, an amalfi red and then a covo dei briganti.,,,all wonderful and interesting. many dishes sampled......i had an app of stuffed squid - stuffed with toasted almonds, chopped shrimp, mint and parsley and then a small gratin of gnocchi with swiss chard, fontina and a nutmeg bechamel. excellent. there was a tasty lobster broth with shrimp and hand rolled farfalle, a warm beet salad with gorgonzola and figs, lamb with a porcini caponata, black pepper straccetti with a wild mushroom ragu and more. much more. we were offered desserts, a chocolate mocha cake with a walnut and peanut butter pesto and a cheesecake that was divine - we could hardly refuse. then the delightful owner sent us a freshly chunked up grana padano surrounded by small, juicy fragrant figs. because he thought we should taste it. for the better part of the evening - we were languidly dining in rome, i expected to come out and see the pantheon instead of the bowery bar......no matter - it was that good, that surprising and i can return without having to throw a coin in a fountain.