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Monday, May 27, 2013

Pasta Emilia, Surry Hills

fresh pasta drying on racks at pasta emilia surry hills

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.

wooden crates and scooter at entrance to pasta emilia surry hills
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 at pasta emilia surry hills
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 with bolognese sauce at pasta emilia surry hills
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 at pasta emilia surry hills
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 at pasta emilia surry hills
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.

rocket radicchio and fennel salad at pasta emilia surry hills
Rucola, radicchio e finocchio $8
Rocket, radicchio and fennel salad

On the side we dig into a generously-sized rocket, radicchio and fennel salad.

espresso at pasta emilia surry hills

We finish with an Italian espresso and a crumbly but soft biscotti that seems to defiantly straddle the line between cake and biscuit.

biscotti at pasta emilia surry hills

pasta makers at pasta emilia surry hills
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.

decor at pasta emilia surry hills
Rustic decor

homemade jams and preserves at pasta emilia surry hills
Homemade jams and preserves

high chairs at pasta emilia surry hills
High chairs 

iggy's bread at pasta emilia surry hills
Iggy's bread on the counter 

fresh pasta at pasta emilia surry hills
Fresh pasta

truffle cream and spelt pasta at pasta emilia surry hills
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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Pasta Emilia on Urbanspoon

Pasta Emilia
259 Riley Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
(corner of Reservoir Street)
Tel: +61 (0)432 969 426

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 8am-6pm (cafe closes 4pm)
Saturday 8am-4pm

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Italian - Via Napoli, Lane Cove
19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/27/2013 12:04:00 am


  • At 5/27/2013 7:46 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen

    That strozza preti looks delicious for this cold weather. Now I need to unpack my new pasta maker which is still in the box.

  • At 5/27/2013 8:16 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    To think that I've been to Pasta Emilia a few times to have a coffee before or after a meeting across the road. I should have stayed for lunch! I do love some Northern Italian home cooking!

  • At 5/27/2013 8:49 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    this looks like a true italian feed. It really does remind me of how the Italian's do it in Italy!

  • At 5/27/2013 9:10 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Wow - looks like an uber-gourmet menu of pasta. Strozzpreti is my absolute favourite, with a rich tomatoey ragu especially!

  • At 5/27/2013 9:42 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    I'm not sure why but I'm super fascinated by that jar of chilli sauce!

  • At 5/27/2013 1:13 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    See I'm curious about that 'chew'. Purists love it slightly undercooked but I dunno. I love tyhe homey and rustic look of the place. Makes you feel all nice and right at home... in the 19th century!

  • At 5/27/2013 3:18 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    this place looks super adorable! and this cold weather calls for pasta and more pasta!

  • At 5/27/2013 8:37 pm, Anonymous Priscilla @ foodpornnation.com said…

    Oh I didn't know they set up shop. I absolutely LOVE pasta emilia. Gotta try the truffle cream sauce with duck ravioli. it is amazing!!

    Can't wait to check them out in person

  • At 5/27/2013 9:14 pm, Blogger thesuzchef said…

    I love the look of this place! The decor and bits and pieces all look fab, and the pasta even more so! Perfect review just in time for the cooler weather - everyone turns to a comforting bowl of pasta when it gets cold!

  • At 5/28/2013 9:35 am, Blogger Roo Food said…

    I recently sampled their products at Eveleigh markets. Wonderful fresh pasta and the truffle cream is AMAZING! Will definitely be heading to the cafe to sample some more!

  • At 5/28/2013 10:47 am, Anonymous Mr C @ The Food Diary said…

    I think I read about this place in SMH a while back! Thanks for reminding me about, I'll definitely try and visit :)

  • At 5/28/2013 11:02 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    At first I was mourning the loss of a molasses factory, but then I saw kale and tall chairs that look like they belong in a dollhouse, and all was well again.

  • At 5/28/2013 6:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love the decor. Can't wait to try this place!

  • At 5/28/2013 7:33 pm, Anonymous Cara @ GourmetChick said…

    Ooh I'm reading this on a chilly Melbourne night and have got instant pasta craving. Looks so good.

  • At 5/29/2013 10:30 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    this place looks so awesome! would love to check it out one day. wished it open for dinner though

  • At 5/30/2013 11:12 am, Blogger Blue Apocalypse said…

    This place looks fantastic and the first thing that caught my eye in the fridge was Truffle Cream!

  • At 5/31/2013 12:42 am, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    What a wonderful find. The look and feel just reels you in. The lunch dishes look superb, but your description of what is on offer for breakfast makes me want to head there and try that out.

  • At 6/01/2013 7:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I buy their ravioli at the Lane Cove markets. The truffle sauce is ridiculously good!

  • At 7/05/2013 11:57 pm, Anonymous bob said…

    I met some dude called diego who does this forgaing thing and was going to go with him to forage mushrooms and then we come back and this place cooks us a pasta dish> I might have to look into it!


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