Aurora--with an open, airy dining room, exposed brick walls, wooden tables, and a large, plant-filled garden--is named after one of owner and Roman native Gaspare Villa's favorites places in Italy. "Rustic" is the best word to describe both the food and atmosphere--like an urban farmhouse where chef Riccardo Buitoni makes sure you are both cozy and well-fed. Pastas, breads, and desserts are all made on premises with a special emphasis on seasonal ingredients, reflected on the menu. Though on our visit, weak coffee proved a poor initiation, shortly afterwards baked eggs with salmon, avocado, and goat cheese arrived literally bubbling hot, eggs crisping in a trace of oil with a lightly buttered slice of toasted country bread on the side. Eggs Norwegian, served atop lusciously rich pan-toasted brioche, adds salmon and spinach to the traditional eggs benedict. Taste aside--which was excellent--presentation made the mouth water even before the first bite.
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the vanilla & orange french toast brioche--equal parts rich and sweet with real maple syrup and mixed berries. For those with a saltier palate, the Aurora burger never fails; bacon and gorgonzola or fontina cheeses are each an extra dollar. Brunch isn't Aurora's only forte and lunch offers a hearty selection of panino and bruschetta ($2 apiece). Even heartier dinner fare, broken down in the traditional Italian style into primi and secondi courses, offers a wealth of homemade pastas; Gothamist recommends the gnocchi with organic nettles, happily wading in a butter and sage emulsion or the ravioli filled with a savory mix of water buffalo cheese, fresh peas and pancetta.
The key to good food always starts with good ingredients, a mantra the kitchen at Aurora is obviously familiar with. Portions are hearty, but not overwhelming, and the atmosphere is pleasant--bustling and hip without feeling crowded or pretentious. Gothamist is circling this one in our book of favorites.
Aurora is located at 70 Grand Street (between Wythe & Kent) in Williamsburg. 718-388-5100.