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Ela Carte reviews Trattoria Emilia on Little Collins Street

MML

Trattoria Emilia – 360 Little Collins St City – www.emiliamelbourne.com.au

A friend of mine liked Gill’s Diner so much, she had her wedding reception there, and she made sure she booked a table for their final night’s service.

So when I went to check out its replacement, Trattoria Emilia, I just had to take her along.

It doesn’t feel remarkably different, which isn’t a bad thing. The room has a lovely lived in feeling, simple timber tables and chairs, lovely tiles, vintage pictures on the wall. It’s a classic vibe, where the focus feels like it’s on quality, dependable food with minimum fuss.

Fried zucchini flowers filled with parmesan mousse.

Fried zucchini flowers filled with parmesan mousse.

You might guess from the name, but the chefs are from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, and more specifically the town of Modena.

Almost all the dishes we ordered were from the day’s specials menu ? it just looked too good. The specials change daily with slight variations based on the freshest produce available.

I loved the eclectic mix of dishes included in the Antipasti misti. Peperonata ? a mix of sliced marinated peppers with olives; arancini with mozzarella and mixed veg; escabeche (lightly pickled white fish with coriander seeds, julienned carrots and spices), fried zucchini flowers filled with parmesan mousse, with deep fried veal sweetbreads and eggplant puree; and erbazonne ? a new one to me, but basically a pastry with spinach and ricotta.

It was largely a simple, authentic assortment that was lovely to pick at over decent conversation.

Escabeche: pickled white fish with coriander seeds, julienned carrots, and spices.

Escabeche: pickled white fish with coriander seeds, julienned carrots, and spices.

For mains, I went with the fish of the day. A small, pan roasted piece of trumpeter with crispy skin, sitting on a bed of fregola ? which is a Sardinian pasta not unlike cous cous. The gregola was cooked in tomato juice and mixed with a mussel and clam broth was reduced to a light sauce. The dish was ganished with a simple salad of fresh cherry tomatoes, celery and slivers of zucchini. A light, tasty dish.

I wasn’t enamoured with my dining partner’s choice, a butterflied spatchcock with a crust of seeds and spices, but would love to go back and try one of the pastas I saw flying out of the kitchen ? think lasagne with asparagus, speck and scamorza or gnocchi with rocket pesto, braod beans, bitter greens and pecorino.

Trattoria Emilia isn’t fancy or showy, but that’s kinda what I liked about it. Stylish and classic, with quality food and ingredients, and a reminder that lunch is as much about the experience and company as the food.

Arancini with mozzarella and mixed veg.

Arancini with mozzarella and mixed veg.

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