You know, we do a hell of a lot of planning and research at JoJo and LiLi. It's not all fun and food. There's also a great deal of scouting and bickering over where we go next involved. Truth. During one of these evenings, we both came to the realisation that we hadn't even considered Italian. Why?! Everyone loves Italian, right?
Well, we amended this pretty quick smart and today, we're going to talk to you about Trattoria Emilia - a quaint little Italian joint on the quieter end of Little Collins Street.
Trattoria Emilia is situated surprisingly close to LiLi's home on Little Collins Street. Perfect for a quick retreat after a possible food coma.
Once known as Gill's Diner, this Italian restaurant is tucked away in Gills Alley in the very same building, away from the hustle and bustle of the streets. The aroma of fresh baked bread fills the air of Little Collins throughout the day and the little café section at the forefront is convenient for those ducking out for a quick pick me up in the area.
The layout of the restaurant is simple with white linen topped wooden tables, scattered across the floor. Dimmed lights, classic settings and a high ceiling make for an intimate experience, but the exposed kitchen overlooking the diners dresses it down, allowing for an easy going and relaxed atmosphere. Although there is a tall divider, visitors can enjoy glimpses of the dedicated kitchen staff whilst they prepare dishes and bake fresh bread from early morning, well into the night.
On this day, LiLi booked us a table for three - Grumpy Mate Rich would be joining us for this occasion!
Upon arrival, we were promptly seated, menus were placed in our hands and some pretty lovely rosemary bread placed in front of us. Light, fluffy and herby - this was pretty good.
You would think that for someone who doesn't do carbohydrates all that often, Grumpy Mate Rich might be able to appreciate great bread. Nope.
Do you see what we put up with?
Now, originally we planned to go with the set menu of $69 which consists of 4 courses. Unfortunately, our appetites were a little lacking that day, so we opted to just go with mains (and dessert if there was still room).
Here's what we went with:
Gnocchi di patate ($28)
Potato gnocchi with crab, cuttlefish ragu and zucchini
Custard Gelato ($12)
Served with strawberries and strawberry coulis
Lasagne alle melanzane ($27)
Lasagne with eggplant, mozzarella, sugo, basil and salted ricotta
Torta Barozzi ($15)
Dark chocolate, coffee and almond cake, sour cherries and mascarpone
Grumpy Mate Rich
Fish of the day ($26)
King fish, cheese stuffed zucchini flowers and tomato puree
JoJo was the only one that was in a drinking mood that day. She went with the Gill’s Spritz ($12) - prosecco, elderflower cordial, mint, fresh lime, soda. The elderflower cordial took the bubbly bite out of the prosecco but it was still very carbonated, and seriously refreshing.
She could swear that summer passed through her lips.
More bread was laid down in front of us when our drinks were served which was okay by us because this bread is exceptional. So satisfyingly moist and warm.
We hadn't even gotten through all of our bread, before our dishes came out. By this stage, we were a little concerned at how much bread we had consumed. One such concern was, how we would feel by the last spoonfuls of our pasta dishes!
Here is LiLi's gnocchi in all of it's glory, sitting on a bed of soft orange ragu.
As you can see, there was a great abundance of these little guys. It was well and truly filling with a grand serving of cuttlefish and zucchini. The crab was hidden amongst the ranks and was the most flavoursome part of this dish.
LiLi boasted that her gnocchi was perfectly cooked and that it's fluffiness was contrasted by a slight crunchy exterior - nicely crisped up in a pan.
Beware of how filling this is! It is potato after all :)
Grumpy Mate Rich's Fish of the Day dish was next - considerably prettier than LiLi's bowl of gnocchi.
He was pleasantly surprised by how good his meal was. Considering his last comment about the artisan bread, we were pleasantly surprised that he was pleasantly surprised!
He described the fish as moist and meaty. He's not a huge seafood lover, so this was a little bit of a break through.
Even though he was a little apprehensive about the zucchini flowers (having never had them before), he thought they worked well amongst everything else on his plate. The puree added an element of sweet, concentrated tartness and the greens freshened everything up.
The only problem? He wanted way more.
Jo loved this rather different take on the traditional lasagne and gosh, she's enjoyed a lot of variations in her time (she makes a pretty mean one if she does say so herself).
The eggplant through this meant that this wasn't as heavy as it's more traditional cousin, but it did have all of the main components of a lasagna. A lovely and light take, nicely presented with basil and some extra shavings of cheese and a bit of basil.
One of the best desserts from the Italians has got to be gelato. It's creamy, smooth and just a real treat.
Usually, one scoop is more than plentiful but this serving came with three scoops. Oh dear LiLi!
The custard gelato was garnished with strawberries and a strawberry coulis. Pretty simple stuff and strawberries and cream is such a classic combination that you can't really go wrong with.
Before you ask: yes, that is foil, no it is not edible.
Here is our Coffee and Almond cake. Rich took one look at it, said "Oh my God this is going to kill me". This was of course succeeded by the continuous shovelling of cake into his gob. So much for his carb intake that day.
Surprisingly, this was not as sweet as it presented. On the contrary, the sweetest part about this dish was the cream and sour cherries. A nice finish to our meals.
I had my heart set on gnocchi from the get go. Honestly, I do not remember the last time I ate gnocchi. It was at least 2 years ago. I just do not visit Italian restaurants enough nor do I cook it at home.
I was attracted to this gnocchi because it had crab. No other good reason apart from crab because who doesn't love crab? It was a massive serving with plenty of zucchini and cuttlefish ragu, the crab buried under all the gnochhi. Quite a filling dish and it was the first time in a long time that I needed to add pepper to bring out the flavour. For some reason it had a plain after taste so that's why I added the pepper and then all of a sudden, it became an enjoyable spicy dish and at that point I wasn't sure if that was it's original intention.
For dessert I had a special menu item of custard gelato with strawberries. Again, another large serving as I was just expecting 1 scoop and instead got 3. I thought the strawberry sauce it swam in was a complimenting touch. The strawberries itself were slightly candied but were just a tad too sweet for my liking.
The customer service was slightly lacking. We had to wait awhile for our order to be taken and after finishing our meals, the plates were not cleared for quite some time. Yes sure, there were other guests to be seated but it wasn't too busy to explain our lack in service. The team was nice but would have liked more attention between finishing main course and dessert.
I really liked the fact that this wasn't a typical, run of the mill Italian joint. My admiration was compounded by Emilia's modern takes on the comforting pasta dishes I grew up with, and reading about these dishes only served to nourish the anticipation of visiting. I am unashamed to admit that I spend a stupid amount of time drooling over dish descriptions.
Customer service was a little relaxed that evening, but I was impressed with the interior. I liked the panelling of the windows that extended all the way up to the ceiling, separating the kitchen from the floor. The photos I took don't do any justice to just how tall that ceiling is. There was a strong theme of yellow and white everywhere - from the linen, to the tiling and the panels.
I was very satisfied with my lasagna - it was a fresher, less dense version of the lasagna that I am accustomed to. Each layer had a spread of that tomato base (sugo), eggplant, mozzarella and that wonderfully salty ricotta - I recommend this dish. Next time, I'll give the buffalo ricotta ravioli a whirl. Yeah, I'm a sucker for simplicity.
Dessert was nice but I probably could have forgone that for a nice starter - the crudo and carpaccio did catch my eye, but I must have had an inkling for sweetness on that day.
Lovely place for a nice quiet dinner, bring your significant other, family or one or two close friends for an intimate occasion.
Food and Drink: ★★★☆☆
Customer Service: ★★☆☆☆
General Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆
Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
Food and Drink: ★★★★☆
Customer Service: ★★★☆☆
General Atmosphere: ★★★★☆
Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
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