Restaurant to open in original location Wednesday
By Michael S. Hoey
The legend has returned.
Restaurateurs Philip Buffa and Gianni Nudo say that has been the public reaction since word leaked out that they have returned to Delavan after nine years to re-open Sweet Aroma Ristorante at its original location at County Road X and Creek Road on the edge of Delavan.
Sweet Aroma will open Wednesday and operate from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Buffa and Nudo owned the original Sweet Aroma from 1989 to 2004 but had to close due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances. The couple went to Florida and opened an Italian café called Café Dolce and did not look back.
Nine years later, Buffa said it seemed like divine intervention brought them back to Delavan. Bradford Cook and his wife bought the building after three other restaurants tried to make a go of it and failed at that location. Cook was preparing to make his own attempt.
“It was our dream to bring that corner back to life,” Cook said.
The Cooks planned to open their own Italian restaurant but were struggling to make it work. About the same time, Cook heard Buffa and Nudo were considering returning to Delavan and made contact with them.
“It made sense for them to come back,” Cook said.
Nudo said he was ready to come back home. Buffa was more reluctant, but they both missed family still living in the area and were already looking at potential places to open a new restaurant in the area. Cook will continue to own the building, Buffa and Nudo will own the restaurant and are once again living in the apartment upstairs.
“It was meant to be,” Buffa said.
“The interest just blows my mind,” Cook said about people’s curiosity about the new incarnation of Sweet Aroma.
“The phone doesn’t stop ringing,” Buffa said.
Buffa said it has been like people have been waiting for them to come back. The restaurant has a Facebook page, and the response has been fantastic.
“Ever since Brad welcomed us home, that is all we have been hearing,” Buffa said. “People have been saying the legend has returned and we never should have left.”
Buffa said they never knew how much they apparently meant to the community until they came back and were exposed to the excitement over the re-opening of the restaurant.
“It will be even better the second time around,” Buffa promised. “We knew we did our job, the next big task will be to do it again.”
Buffa said the restaurant was successful the first time because of consistency and good service. Nudo said customers always felt welcome. Buffa said that was in part because an owner was always right up front. Nudo said when he was not there, he would hear about it for weeks.
“Our first job is to make people feel comfortable,” Buffa said.
Buffa said not much will change with the new version of Sweet Aroma.
“It will be the new old Sweet Aroma,” he said. “We are not going to change a thing.”
Buffa said they considered adopting the popular one-page menu other restaurants use but opted for the familiar full menu that will include full European dinners, not just ala carte offerings. The specialties will be the old favorites like lasagna, chicken parmesan, artichokes, and their signature sauce along with a few new menu items. One new addition will be the “Piccolo” plates, lighter fare served before 6 p.m.
Another new addition will be the bar. Buffa said the original Sweet Aroma did not have a bar. The current bar was added by one of the businesses that followed them.
Some other structural interior changes were made to the building while they were away, but the restaurant has been returned to the old-world themed décor. Buffa said the restaurant will still have the same warmth, coziness and charm it had nine years ago.
Buffa said about half of the original staff has returned as well, so customers will see other familiar faces besides theirs.
The building itself was a challenge, just as it was when Buffa and Nuda first opened a restaurant in it back in 1989. Buffa said the former house was built in 1914 and was a big money pit when they first bought it. The place was in rough shape when they came back, but Cook had already made much progress in rehabilitating it.
Buffa and Nuda said it is great to be back in town.
“It feels like we never left,” Buffa said.