I'm a teacher, musician, blogger and uni student living in Sydney and always dreaming about living & experiencing a new corner of the world. Visit my blog at www.jessiejournals.wordpress.com.
Published August 20th 2016
Eat authentic Italian food in Australia
Having been craving Italian food ever since I left there after two months of being an au pair, I got excited when Ferragosto was coming up. It's a shame that this harvest season isn't celebrated in Australia, but I felt obliged to drag my friend out on a Tuesday night to attend this special event at Pasta Emilia.
Being situated in the heart of wonderful and diverse cuisine that is Surry Hills, Pasta Emilia also has many things they can boast about. First of all, Pasta Emilia is more than just a restaurant. It is also a retail store for the freshest ingredients readily available, and a pasta-making laboratory. They also use only the most traditional and organic ingredients, and as someone who has lived with Italians for two months, I agree with this comment. Not only that, the decor is everything you'd expect at a homely Italian restaurant, but more- wooden chairs, plants inside, wine bottles everywhere, a piano, and the list goes on.
We were kindly greeted by our Italian waitress for the night, who went through her recommendations on every aspect of the meal- the Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and Dolci- followed by recommendations on drinks. I found that Pasta Emilia was very accommodating for vegetarians, like my friend who was accompanying me on that night. I honestly felt like every second dish on the menu was vegetarian, which was awesome but unfortunately rare nowadays.
We both had a 'Savoury Potato Cake served with a cheese fondue and black truffle' as an Antipasti. As our waitress walked towards us from the kitchen, we could already smell the perfect mixture between the truffles and the cheese. The potato cake was so soft that it was like eating clouds, and the other ingredients were so fresh that it reminded me of when I ate a four-hour meal in Greve in Chianti with my host family, where the chefs would grow and cook their own truffles. My friend also devoured the dish within a few minutes. Funny, this was after she commented earlier that day that she was craving some potato cake.
Our waitress also insisted on having wines that matched all of our dishes. With the potato cake she served us some Lady Gio- 100% Chardonay with a fine and intense perlage, presents itself with a sensation of honey of acacia, finishing notes with a persistent and velvety acidity.
I then had a 'Game and Truffle Tortelli with sage and butter' as my Primi- Tortelli is the name of the large ravioli style pasta that comes from Anna Maria's hometown in Castell' Arquato. It is made from super fine certified organic silky egg pasta with a biodynamic ricotta, truffle, mushroom & free-range game filling. The sauce is the very traditional accompaniment to a lot of Tortelli dishes made from organic butter and sage.
As described, the tortelli was so smooth and easy to chew, but had an al dente texture. The fillings had such a perfect blend of strong and not-so-strong flavours, which made it a very homely dish. Needless to say, every ingredient in here was so fresh and inviting. And of course, lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese is always welcome with pasta dishes like this one.
My friend had a 'Spelt Tortelli Cavolo Nero & salsa verde'- Spelt Tortelli is made from light wholemeal flour and organic eggs. Our biodynamic ricotta based fillings are mixed with either fresh spinach or a delicious soffritto of Porcini Mushrooms. This dish is served with lightly sauteed Tuscan Kale and Pasta Emilia's famous Salsa Verde. She absolutely loved the ways that the dish pleased all her senses, and wanted to lick her plate clean as much as possible.
As my secondi, I had a 'Wild boar slow-cooked in Barbera wine served with soft polenta'. I deliberately chose this dish as I had a wild-boar dish as well when I ate that four-hour meal in Greve in Chianti, where they also bred their own boars. The tender and succulent meat pieces easily slid off the knife, and still retained its original taste and smell without the overpowering wine. Polenta does not usually have a strong taste in itself, which provided a good balance with the strong smell and taste of the meat. The only 'criticism' I would have is that I'm not sure if this dish was the most quintessential secondi dish from the Emilia-Romagna region- polenta is more commonly associated with the Lombardy region of Northern Italy (think Milan). However, polenta con cinhiale (polenta with wild boar) has become so popular in Northern and Central Italy that it is slowly becoming more of a national dish. I can't complain about it though, as it's such a fabulous blend between flavours.
Wild boar slow-cooked in Barbera wine served with soft polenta
For some crazy reason, we thought that we wanted to try another pasta dish as we felt we weren't eating enough of what Pasta Emilia is famous for. I then had a 'Tortelli of the day with truffle cream sauce'- Tortelli is the name of the large ravioli style pasta that comes from Anna Maria's hometown in Castell' Arquato. It is made from super fine certified organic silky egg pasta and filled with biodynamic ricotta and one of Annamaria's family flavourings.
The sauce is one of Pasta Emilia's most popular – the Truffle Cream.
I had pumpkin in my pasta! Although my love for pumpkin might mean that I could be biased, I feel like that was truly a delightful experience for my senses. The sauce was the absolute winner as it had generous amounts of every ingredient, and by the end, I struggled to lick it clean without looking like I have no manners.
To accompany our savoury dishes was a glass of Chianti 2014.
Now for my favourite part of any meal. By this time, I was pretty full, but would not forgo the dessert even if someone held a knife against me. We both had a 'Panacotta with chestnuts cream'. I have to admit, even in Italy I was disappointed with some of the panacottas that I had, as a lot of the time they lacked enough flavour. However, Pasta Emilia definitely ended with a bang. First of all, the aromatic dish could be smelt even before it was placed on our table, the plating was very enticing, and the amount that you'd get is very generous. Every aspect of the dessert was so present and exceptional. It was clear that every element had been thought out. That's what Italian food is about, and that's what Pasta Emilia delivered.
We had a 'IT 2013 Dolcetto Sori Dij But, DOCG, 16 70 Piemonte, Anna Maria Abbona' with our dessert- Deep ruby red in colour, the wine has good structure and medium body. Fruity Aroma of plums and cherries, with summer notes and light aromatic finish. Before I did my research, I did not know what was in here, as the plums and cherries were blended to a point where I struggled to pinpoint what it was. However, all I knew then was how much I adored its taste. It complemented the dessert, yet would have still been different enough as a standalone drink. It was also an excellent digestive drink.
We ended up having one more glass of wine to end what was one of the greatest night-outs I've had since returning home from Italy. We had a Nanin Passito, although we couldn't finish it.
All in all, I knew I was definitely returning to Pasta Emilia in the near future. I have not shut up about the beauties of Italian food ever since returning back from Italy, and this is now going to be my go-to place to show my friends what REAL Italian food is like. For a taste of authentic Italian food in the heart of Australia's dining district, don't hesitate about dropping by Pasta Emilia.