Pasta Emilia

Jill Dupleix
Perfection: Strozzapreti with ragu takes centre stage.
Perfection: Strozzapreti with ragu takes centre stage. Photo: Marco Del Grande

259 Riley Street Surry Hills, New South Wales 2010

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Opening hours Tue-Sun 11.30am-4pm; Tue-Sun 6pm-10pm
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 9212 1069

'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

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