In my attempts to assimilate myself into the Williamsburg lifestyle, I made a little trip to Aurora for some rustic Italian with my friend Hal. Nestled on the corner of Grand St on the south side of the Burg, Aurora's facade is not much to write about, but the outdoor garden definitely is. We lucked out with the weather (it was one of those pseudo-summer days we had not too long ago), so we were able to sit outside and dine under the vines. You thought I was going to say stars, didn't you? I'm no romantic…but it certainly could be romantic if you have that bone in your body. The candles and the vines wrapped around the fences with flowers blooming; I was half expecting a big Italian guy with an accordian to come out and start singing "Bella Notte."
We started off traditionally with some drinks; wine for me and a martini for him. We're so fancy. We then ordered the assortment of olives, meats and cheeses plate, as well as the cauliflower sformato, which is basically a cauliflower flan with gorgonzola cheese (don't let the vegetable-flan term throw you off, because it's fantastic when done right). I don't think you can ever go wrong with assorted meat and cheese as an appetizer at an Italian restaurant, because really, if they screw THAT up, you should fake an illness and run for the hills. The gorgonzola and parmigiano cheeses were really fresh, as were the assorted meats (salumi, prosciutto, brasciola, and speck). The olives were the biggest olives I've ever seen. I don't know what they are shooting into these things, but they were huge. No complaints – I love olives. They needed a little sprinkling of salt, but other than that they were good.
The sformato was really creamy and cheesy; Hal thought he couldn't taste cauliflower, but no one cares what he thinks. He was kind of right though, because while I definitely smelled the cauliflower, I felt like I tasted more cheese than anything else. This could be because gorgonzola is a very strong cheese, but either way I love gorgonzola, so I can't really get upset about the overwhelming cheese-factor.
For main courses, I ordered the strip steak with arugula salad, and Hal ordered one of the pasta specials which was orrechiete in a pork ragu. Mmmm. The pasta was definitely the way to go in this instance. The steak was good, but it wasn't as flavorful as that pork ragu, so it was hard to put one next to the other for a fair comparison. The steak was cooked well and had a nice sear on it, but it didn't have that wow factor that the pasta did. The ragu in my opinion could have had a little more liquid, but it was still very tasty and the pasta is made in house so it was really a nice, fresh dish. I just prefer a little more sauce in my sauce.
For dessert, we saw that the Tiramisu was highlighted on the menu, so we inquired about that. Apparently they make it in house (always a good sign), and therefore it is highly recommended. I love a good tiramisu, so we went with that. It arrived with my espresso a few moments later in a square glass so you can see all the layers, and we dove in. Very, very good…and I've had A LOT of tiramisu's in my lifetime. It's my fallback dessert. This one I really liked – it was creamy and not too sweet. I hate it when tiramisu is just all sugar so you can't even taste the layers.
Now that I am moving to Williamsburg, I can definitely see myself coming back to Aurora with friends, family, or even a date. The ambiance is really nice (if you just block out all the street noise), and the food was solid. There is a Manhattan location of Aurora as well, which I have yet to try. Wonder which one is better? Brooklyn vs Manhattan once again…will the war ever end?
And just a few random notes on Aurora:
1 – They are cash only
2 – They deliver (yes!)
3 – They have a recipe of the month on the back of their menu. This month it was Tuscan Liver Mousse, which sounds delicious (and is delicious according to the host), but you might want to scale it back a bit. The recipe calls for the livers of nine ducks. So you know, if you happen to have nine ducks lying around, or maybe some rabbits leftover from Easter, go nuts.