Pasta Emilia

Comforting: Beef ragu tossed with strozzapreti.
Comforting: Beef ragu tossed with strozzapreti. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

259 Riley St Surry Hills, NSW 2010

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Opening hours Mon Closed, Tue-Sun 11:30 AM – 4:00 PM 6:00 – 10:00 PM
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed, Family friendly, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 9212 1069

There was once a point in time when Bronte was the beating heart of artisanal start-ups. There was – and still is – Iggy's Bread of the World but then there was also Pasta Emilia, where pasta boss Anna Maria Eoclidi​ would make a very limited amount of fresh tortelli and fettuccine each day – you'd get in pronto or you'd miss out and leave sad. It was a beachside festa of small-batch carbs.

These days, you'll find Anna Maria and the Emilia team on Riley Street in Surry Hills with a much bigger kitchen at her disposal, a battery of staff and a couple of very large fridges filled with fresh snacks a la Eoclidi. It's a bit like eating in some rich bohemian's dining room – all effortless, anti-style that falls together seamlessly and comfortably – probably served by someone's Italian niece on gap year. You'll be fretting about  the fact you don't speak better (or any) Italian and she really doesn't care.

So when you and your dining partner's tazza di brodo, described on the menu as a "cup of our organic broth", turns up in a big bowl with two spoons, don't expect an explanation beyond a thousand-yard stare and a shrug. And yet somehow that magically prompts you to apologise for not being better at sharing a bowl of very hot soup across a fairly wide-reaching table. I kind of love that.

Pasta Emilia is like a rich bohemian's dining room.
Pasta Emilia is like a rich bohemian's dining room. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Pasta Emilia isn't really a restaurant, it's not really a shop. It's more of an amalgamation of good things bundled together and delivered with a heavy dose of charm. You'll find it next door to Contour 255 – a new collaboration between French homewares legends ici et la (yes, antique egg baskets and zinc lettering, I'm looking at you) and Kunter Bundt (that's German for "a motley crew"). It's a nice little patch of organised chaos on Riley Street.

On the plate there's a bruschetta of juicy tomato, fresh cheese and basil, and a very respectable salad caprese but really, you're here for the fresh pasta. Spelt tortelli – Hulk-sized ravioli from Anna Maria's hometown of Castell' Arquato, filled with ricotta – are tossed with chilli, and bitter greens,  the heat and bitterness tempered by the cheese and al dente pasta. Or there's the classic and very comforting beef ragu tossed with strozzapreti (my all-time favourite pasta shape, its translation: "priest strangler").

Desserts are more in line with something to support a digestivo than the main affair, but sbrisolona – which translates as broken pieces of a short, almond rich torta served with melted chocolate – is perfect with an ice-cold Averna liqueur.

Bruschetta whets the appetite.
Bruschetta whets the appetite. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Eastern suburbs dwellers, if there was ever a point at which you entertained buying a pasta machine for that rare occasion you make your own, think on it. If you're anything like me, it's a delicious fantasy that ends in the thing sitting in the cupboard, dismantled, paste caught in the teeth, left to dry out and fossilise. The take-home point is, fuhgeddaboudit and buy Anna Maria's instead. Even better, eat in and order a negroni for your troubles. 

THE LOWDOWN 
Pro tip Inner-westies can purchase Anna Maria's pasta from the Eveleigh Markets every Saturday.
Try this Order the strozzapreti purely so you can use that line from Hitchcock's I Confess ("I'm going to either strangle you or make out with you. Possibly both, if you're into that.")
Like this? A Tavola also make their own pasta, but be prepared to queue; 348 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst.