Aroma therapy: an inventive Italian BYO moves to Pennsport

Five months after its move from Center City, Ristorante Aroma is enjoying the sweet smell of success—and pasta—in Pennsport.

Just before yet another eager crowd filled the seats at Ristorante Aroma, co-owner and head chef Antonio Cardillo drank an espresso, reflecting on the good fortune he’s enjoyed at the restaurant’s new 1245 S. Third St. home. Since relocating to Pennsport from Center City, the grateful gastronome has enjoyed giving new guests an eclectic lesson in Italian cuisine.

“There has been a very welcoming reaction from the neighborhood, so that helps me to love what I’m doing even more,” Cardillo said, “I’ve been at this for a long time, so it’s good that being in a new area has brought good results.”

Interior shot of Ristorante Aroma’s new home in Pennsport

The native of Italy has been applying his passion for plates in America for more than four decades. Ristorante Aroma offers a menu teeming with delights from every part of his homeland. The BYOB’s menu was kept largely the same when Cardillo headed south. There’s an assortment of antipasti, pasta creations, entrees, sides, specialty breads, and desserts.

“We take pride in everything that we do here,” he said of the 50-seat space that had been Caffe Valentino prior to his move. “From the ambience to the waitstaff to the food, of course, when you come here, you know you’re getting our best.” 

When pressed to name his best dishes, Cardillo said Ristorante Aroma’s bronzino, gnocchi mascarpone with lobster, and timballo hold special places in his heart.

Timballo, Cardillo explains, is the perfect treat for a special occasion—an impressive lasagna-noodle dome that tops a mixture of meatballs, sausage, short ribs, and five types of pasta. This unique dish is a dream come true for carnivores and carb lovers alike and must be ordered in advance.

Another filling dish is the mussels in red sauce served in a pizza dough basket. Recently it was served as part of a very filling seafood appetizer special along with octopus, artichokes, and fried calamari.

If these dishes don’t have your stomach waving the white flag, Cardillo promises complete contentment for those who choose the chocolate espresso bar topped with gelato for dessert. 

“We put in a lot of time here,” said the mastermind, who makes his home in Cherry Hill with Francine, his wife of 37 years, “but it’s all worth it to see people falling in love with this food.”

As that romance continues to blossom, Cardillo is planning to make seasonal menu alterations and hopes to  host large events. The holiday season is pretty packed, he noted, but come 2022, he looks forward to making more friends.

“I don’t think I ever need to impress myself,” he said. “I’ve been at this long enough to know that if there’s love in what you do, you can’t go wrong.”

Aroma on 3rd
1245 S. 3rd Street

Open for dinner:
Tuesday–Thursday 5pm-10pm,
Friday & Saturday 5pm-11pm,
Sunday 5pm-10pm.

Outdoor dining available.