Pasta Emilia: A little slice of Italy
Food & Drink: 8/10
259 Riley Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Pasta Emilia is a family-run osteria which opened its doors in Surry Hills in 2004. Walking in feels like entering a little town in Italy. The converted warehouse is full of rustic charm with its bentwood chairs, communal tables, and shelves stacked with wines, salumi and olive oil. There’s also a separate area for pasta-making classes, but I’m here today to wine and dine.
I’ve brought along a dining partner, and a waiter, Jacob, comes to greet us. "Bạn khỏe không!" he proclaims. I am too shocked to respond for a few seconds, because he’s just said "how are you?" in Vietnamese when he clearly isn’t Asian, and the realisation that he’s noted my ethnicity from my surname, Nguyen, in my booking reservation. I love this personal touch and attention to detail. As it turns out, he lived and worked in Vietnam for several months. My partner and Jacob soon establish that they’re both Italian and proceed to converse animatedly in their native tongue for the next few minutes. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but it’s music to my ears and I am swooning.
The dinner menu is simple and traditional, with a variety of antipasti, pasta, gnocchi, tortelli, and select meat and fish dishes. But first, vino. We order a bottle of the Il Baloss Cabernet Sauvignon ($59). It tastes soft, fragrant and full-bodied. Being an organic wine, it doesn’t have that harsh acidic taste that seems to accompany cheap wines. Even experts agree that organic wines simply taste better.
Pasta Emilia’s owner, Anna Eoclidi, prides her establishment on its high-quality produce, sourcing local, sustainable, organic and biodynamic ingredients in both its food and wine. Biodynamic is one step above organic; it’s holistic farming which values soil health and its interrelationship with the ecosystem.
My main is the tagliatelle ai funghi porcini (tagliatelle with wild mushroom sauce and parsley, $28), while my partner is having the bis di tortelli alla zucca e spinaci con crema al tartufo (pumpkin and spinach tortelli with truffle cream sauce, $32). The tagliatelle is al dente with a satisfying chewiness. The sauce, whilst deliciously creamy, is somewhat monotonous. Perhaps an extra vegetable included in the dish may have helped break up the flavour and texture, albeit I appreciate the recipe is traditionally simple. The handmade tortelli are smooth and flavoursome, although my partner wishes it was a larger serving.
Nevertheless, our hearts are well and truly won over with the chocolate and coffee tiramisù ($13). Presented humbly as a small cake slice, it’s disarmingly indulgent, and packed with coffee flavour with every spoonful.
Despite our very minor criticisms, the wonderful service, bustling and homely vibe, and overall atmosphere more than make up for it. I’m keen to return and try their other delectable offerings. And, if I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll be served again by Jacob, my new favourite, effervescent, multilingual waiter.