Pasta Emilia

259 Riley Street, Surry Hills, NSW

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Strozzapreti with ragu at Pasta Emilia.
Perfection: Strozzapreti with ragu takes centre stage. Photo: Marco Del Grande

Jill Dupleix

'Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.'' Smart girl, Sophia Loren. Her 1972 cookbook sits proudly on the shelves of the recently relocated Pasta Emilia like a blessing, next to jars of house-made arrabiata sauce.

And you'll be needing her advice if you drop in for lunch, even if the pasta is more your hands-on, artisanal, organic, filled ravioli and tortelli than your suck-it-up spaghetti.

It might look like a garage with its bright red Vespa parked in the wide doorway a la Roman Holiday, but this sweet, cottage-industry cafe, retail store and pasta-making laboratorio is clearly a place for refuelling bodies rather than scooters. The spacious room is lined with refrigerated cabinets and shelves stacked with pasta, sauces, olive oil, organic rice and honey. Another counter holds salumi and cheeses and a gloriously retro La Victoria Arduino Athena lever-operated espresso machine, a beautiful thing seemingly sheathed in beaten silver.

Not yet licensed, Pasta Emilia operates from 8am to 4pm , with the intention of opening for ''aperitivi'' in the early evenings.

In the meantime, there are Italian-accented breakfasts of uove strapazzate (scrambled eggs with sage or truffle butter and baked beans on sourdough) and simple panini. The Little Marionette organic blend makes a full-throated piccolo latte, and the skim caffe latte has plenty of grunt.

Even so, it's a leisurely, calming sort of place, with folks gathered around communal tables and sunlight filtering through its windows.

Lunch can kick off with a shared antipasto platter of luxuriously nutty San Daniele prosciutto (considered the best in Italy); white folds of pure-fat lardo, thick slices of truffled salami and a wedge of pecorino, with a few pickled mushrooms and some grilled Iggy's seeded bagels.

Then there are just four pasta and four salad options ranging from a simple linguine al pesto and rocket to a tricolore winter salad of rocket, radicchio and fennel. Square, flat tortelli of kale flower, pecorino and potato come with salsa verde and two gratuitous white anchovies - not needed, go away.

It's the strozzapreti that wins hearts, however, the short twists of pasta cooked comfortably beyond the al dente stage and coated, rather than drowned, in a gutsy bolognese ragu. Great pasta and a great sauce for just $12? With Ms Loren's advice in mind, it gets totally hoovered.

Do … take your time, this is Slow Food

Don't … go home without some pasta and sauce

Dish … Strozzapreti pasta with bolognese ragu $12/$16

Vibe … Artisanal old-school osteria

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food under $30 is on sale now at selected newsagencies, bookshops and at The Sydney Morning Herald's online shop (

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259 Riley Street, Surry Hills, NSW

  • Cuisine - Italian
  • Prices - Breakfast $4-$12, Lunch $8-$22, Coffee $3.50
  • Features - Cheap and cheerful
  • Opening Hours - Tues-Sat, 8am-4pm
  • Author - Jill Dupleix
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5 comments so far

  • Sounds like my mother-in-law's cooking, though she could feed 30 people for $12.00.

    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 12:51PM
    • This feeding 30 people for $12 would include overheads like gas, electricity, water rates, council rates and payment for her time to do so as well as the food David?

      Get real David - this is a business to make money to survive/live and I doubt your MIL no matter how good she is could feed 30 people for $12 with good ingredients..

      As for hoovering it up - I have never enjoyed eating Spaghetti type pasta as it always seems to slip off my fork as it reaches my mouth and then get all over me... I prefer other shaped pastas to eat as much easier and less frustrating...LOL

      Jules (cynic in residence)
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 2:30PM
  • Beautiful atmosphere, gorgeous food, warm welcome and lovely service. An authentic lunchtime treat that takes transports you to europe, and away from the grind.

    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 1:08PM
  • There is more info on the decor than the food.

    What a poor review.

    Lazy Jesus
    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 1:38PM
    • "More info on the decor than the food"?
      Is that really Lazy Jesus? Or is it actually Lazy Troll, or one of Lazy Troll's siblings, Can't Count Tropp or Subway Troll.

      Firstly, unless we're dashing in and out of a fast food restaurant, people actually do care about the mood, or atmosphere of a place. Secondly, the reviewer, in a succinct 200 and something word review, addressed the decor/mood/vibe of the place in only 80 something words (approx 20%).

      The reviewer spent about 280 words on the food, which (at approx 65% of the review), looks entirely appropriate to me, given that they also have to spend some word count introducing the subject (about 45 words), rhetorically embracing the reader, and so on.

      Food Loving but ever so slightly Pedantic
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 1:47PM

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