Wow factor in abundance at Aroma Caffe

The Herald

The Epicurean

Various food writers have over the years said that when a restaurant moves venue it does not always recapture its previous ambience or success.

While there have certainly been examples of this in Harare, I am prepared to bet that a recent move of venue by Aroma Caffe, from Highlands to Chisipite, is going to bring it many gains and no losses.

The move was not a voluntary one; the venue’s previous venue in Hurworth Road was sold off and they had to move. Fortunately, the delightful garden setting of 167 Enterprise Road, a few kilometres away, was available and so the move took place during June and July. This site was for many years the really pleasant one67 restaurant — also known as Theo’s House of Coffees — a popular and enjoyable venue run by the amiable Lollie Nel and which closed two years ago.

There has been a remarkable amount of renovation work and the result is a huge kitchen, an extended terrace dining area and a small indoors, café-style seating area; there is also dining al fresco in the colourful garden. Judging by the numbers of people there when we dined a week ago, news of Aroma Caffe’s re-opening and move has been responded to by customers from the past, as well as by a great many newcomers, and this was confirmed by Walter Picci, who felt many of the current guests were totally new faces for him.

Walter and his wife, Marina, are the team behind the restaurant, with a good reputation built at the former venue for really good Italian-style dining. The Piccis have been well-known for outside catering and opened Aroma Caffe about four years ago.

It has café-style offerings, as one would expect, and there’s an emphasis on Italian cuisine. It also has restaurant-style offerings, making it a super all-day venue for a range of culinary and beverage treats. At present, it is open daytimes only, but there are plans to start some evening offerings when summer is well under way.

My guest and I started with bread and olive tapenade, and we then shared a mixed antipasto platter, a generous serving of prosciutto, mortadella, salami, pepperoni, olives, tomatoes, rocket leaves, mushrooms, artichokes, brinjal and cheese. At $14 this was great value and could well be a satisfying main course for most diners. For mains I had the spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter and sage ($12) while my guest had one of the great salad offerings: a Caruso, featuring crumbed chicken, brinjal served in various ways, avocado and other salad specials, as well as a superb peanut butter and coconut dressing. This was $12.50 and also great value.

Although dessert seemed impossible, it proved irresistible, so my guest had a vanilla panacotta, and I enjoyed a very tasty and colourful strawberry cheesecake. These are $5. Cups of espresso finished a very satisfying and successful meal.

The venue has a very varied a la carte menu and lunch specials are written up on the wall board; these change from time to time to keep the balance between popular items and new treats to stimulate palates in search of innovation. Croissants (cornetti in Italian), a health breakfast, egg breakfasts, sandwiches, panini, salads and wraps were priced between $3 and $14.50, while the specials board had items priced between $8 and $16. A children’s menu features dishes from $5 to $8.

Variety and style in the antipasto platter

Aroma Caffe is open from Monday to Saturday between 7.30am and 4.30pm. In the former venue, Walter and Marina opened on Friday nights, too, featuring the a la carte selection but on the last Friday of the month hosting a five-course set menu. Maybe this will happen again once they have settled into their new home and summer is in full swing.

This lovely venue offers something that not all dining venues lay on: the wow factor. The food is excellent and it is a genuine Italian treat that will be enjoyed by all palates. Aroma Caffe is at 167 Enterprise Road, Chisipite (opposite the Lewisam shopping centre and a couple of kilometres short of the Chisipite shopping centre). Bookings and enquiries to (024)2480904 or 0772 235693. E-mail [email protected]

There’s a superb offering at Meikles Hotel tomorrow night, Sunday August 5. The guest dancers and director of the Ballet Beautiful show running at Reps Theatre will attend a Dine With The Stars dinner.

They are from the Cape Town City Ballet and look forward to mingling with, and chatting to, diners keen to meet them and know more about the world of ballet.

It will feature a three-course dinner and starts at 7pm (pre-dinner drinks 6.30pm). It’s a fundraiser for the Meikles Foundation, which supports a number of charitable and welfare causes. Booking through calling Meikles Hotel on (0244) 2707721 or e-mailing [email protected] The event is suitable for all ages, including young dancers!

Wine enthusiasts, whether serious or just “enjoyers” will be keen to attend this year’s wine weekend arranged by the Grapevine wine group. It’s open to all and runs from Friday August 17 to Sunday August 19, and will this year take place in Mutare.

More information from Whatsapp 0785 300144 or e-mail [email protected]

Feedback on your dining experiences is welcome. E-mail [email protected] with feedback, comments and opinions.