It used to be a molasses factory. Nowadays it's home to Pasta Emilia, a family-run business specialising in organic pasta and sauces that first opened in Bronte in 2004. The converted warehouse is the perfect setting for its bustling cafe, set up like an Italian dining hall with high ceilings, communal tables and bentwood chairs.
Crates and scooter at the entrance to Pasta Emilia
Central to the hubbub of activity is co-owner Anna Maria Eoclidi. She seems to know just about everyone, a radiant ever-smiling host who flits between tables, the kitchen and the service counter with a natural ease.
Eoclidi hails from the Emilia-Romagna region, famous for so many foods but primarily renowned for its pasta. More than half of the pastas you are likely to know (ravioli, tortellini, tagliatelle, lasagna, cannelloni, just for starters) originated here.
In Emilia-Romagna you'll find Modena (of balsamic vinegar fame), Reggio Emilia (parmigiano reggiano), Parma (can you say prosciutto?) and Bologna (hello bolognaise). It's a food lover's paradise.
Communal seating in the dining room
At Pasta Emilia, the menu is short and sweet. There's a marked focus on good quality produce with breakfast options that run from organic eggs and guanciale Italian bacon (made from pork cheeks) to raw organic honey with Mungalli Creek ricotta on Iggy's sourdough toast. Stay virtuous with poached eggs, steamed kale and ricotta or go all out with scrambled eggs and truffle butter served with homemade baked beans on toast.
On a Friday lunch, the dining room is a happy chaos of patrons. Lunch options include panini sandwiches with prosciutto, preservative-free ham or biodynamic ricotta ($8.50-$10) and antipasti (mixed salumi and/or cheeses with bruschetta at $13-$23) but we only have eyes for the pasta.
Strozza preti al ragu di carne and parmigiano $12 small
There are four choices on the pasta menu, but the strozza preti is worth prioritising. Strozza preti are short twists of hand-rolled pasta, beautifully uneven in size and shape but perfect for catching hearty chunks of rich and saucy beef ragu. In Italian, strozza preti translates to "priest strangler" and some say it's because some greedy priests scoffed down this delicious treat so fast that they ended up choking, sometimes ending in death!
There's a satisfying chewiness to these twisted ropes of pasta, coated with a slow-simmered tomato sauce studded with tender beef. Strozza preti is a particular specialty of the Emilia region, with Parmesan cheese traditionally incorporated into the pasta dough.
Kale flower, pecorino and potato tortelli served with anchovy salsa verde $22 large
Tortellini originated in the Emilia region too, specifically Bologna and Modena. Tortelli are a larger version - here these pasta pockets are filled with a mix of kale flowers, pecorino and potato.
The handmade tortelli are smooth as silk but also have a pleasing al dente bite. There's a fresh zing from the salsa verde and a salty hit from the anchovy reclining on top.
Chilli sauce and Parmesan cheese for the table
Even the little things, like fresh chilli sauce and grated fresh parmesan cheese in matching jars brought to the table, are a welcome homestyle touch.
Rucola, radicchio e finocchio $8
Rocket, radicchio and fennel salad
On the side we dig into a generously-sized rocket, radicchio and fennel salad.
We finish with an Italian espresso and a crumbly but soft biscotti that seems to defiantly straddle the line between cake and biscuit.
Pasta makers used during pasta-making classes
Out the back you can wander among the pasta making machines used during classes and even spy into the pasta preparation area. There you might find pasta being rolled out, cut or packed into bags ready for sale.
Homemade jams and preserves
Iggy's bread on the counter
Truffle cream and spelt pasta
A little slice of Italy in Surry Hills. It's like going abroad in your lunch break without the hassle!
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259 Riley Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
(corner of Reservoir Street)
Tel: +61 (0)432 969 426
Tuesday to Friday 8am-6pm (cafe closes 4pm)
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5/27/2013 12:04:00 a.m.