There’s something to be said about the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. Tomato isn’t the forté of this Italian region, so don't expect a traditional tomato ragu. The chefs at Trattoria Emilia hail from its namesake, and chef and co-owners Franscesco Rota and Luca Flammia make uncomplicated dishes that are big on flavour.
Director Matteo Neviani can be seen darting around with an impressive three-plate hold, and it’s all hands on deck on a busy evening. An à la carte menu is on offer for lunch, but evening diners must opt for three courses.
For primi look no further than a typical snack in Emilia-Romagna: gnocco fritto. Light pillows of deep-fried gnocco fritto and soft, doughy discs of tigelle are nestled together in a mini bread basket and accompanied by a plate of salumi, mortadella mousse and a small side of creamy stracciatella di bufala. Break open the gnocco fritto and smear the mousse over it or layer your tigelle with prosciutto di parma and a spoonful of the buffalo milk cheese. The different textures of pork and bread work together to form an appetising union.
Moving on to secondi, you’re set to meet the star of the show: the much-loved tortelloni Modenesi. Three Falstaffian tortelloni are charged with a rich prosciutto-and-mortadella filling and wade, rather than swim, in a layer of parmesan-spiked sauce. The theatrics come out as a member of the wait staff completes the experience with a few generous dots of 25-year-old Balsamico di Modena that is promptly whisked away. And fair enough, too, or diners would help themselves far too liberally to the sweet, syrupy balsamic vinegar.
The spanner crab gnocchi is a newer addition to the menu and presents fluffy potato and lemon rind gnocchi with modest chunks of spanner crab, fresh prawn meat and crisp asparagus interlaced with a creamy, full-flavoured saffron sauce. Like any gnocchi-based dish, it’s heavy and can be difficult to conquer after bites and primi.
The dolci list promises four disparate desserts, but the semifreddo stands out with its thick vanilla custard infused with orange, brittle pistachio croccante (candied nuts), cherries and a silky strawberry coulis. Seasonality is key here.
The trattoria boasts an extensive 12-page wine list and houses aperitifs, two types of Negronis (classico and sbagliato) and gives a nod to the old bones of Gills Diner with its Gill Spritz, which mixes prosecco with elderflower cordial, fresh mint and lime with a dash of soda. While there are only four reds available by the glass, most of the bottles hail from Piemonte, northwest of Emilia Romagna, and the 2015 Cigliuti Barbaresco ‘Vie Erte’ Nebbiolo DOCG will compliment the intensity of the dishes.
The grandiose venue is tucked neatly away in a laneway. Open the doors to reveal a light and airy venue with white walls adorned with plenty of art by Italian artists, and white tablecloths. High ceilings suspend pool table lamps, and dining sections are separated by a framed glass wall that allows loud conversations and laughter to carry throughout the venue. Little tealights dot tables in the evening, and daters can romance their lovers in an intimate setting.
Come for the handmade pasta, stay for the jovial Italian hospitality.
Rushani Epa dined as a guest of Trattoria Emilia.