MELBOURNE | Trattoria Emilia Melbourne is the new incarnation of Gills Dinner. Walking down Gill’s Alley and not much has changed however as soon as you walk through the large front doors it feels like you’ve stepped into a little piece of regional Italy. Trattoria Emilia is part of the new wave of Italian establishments which are bringing modern Italian to the masses. When we say modern Italian it is not molecular gastronomy rather it is classic rustic dishes that you would actually find modern Italian’s eating in their own homes cooked by their mothers or Nonas. Think the kind of food you find in simple Italian restaurants in Italy today, not the 1970s throwbacks that still line much of Carlton’s portion of Lygon Street.
The cuisine at Trattoria Emilia is heavily influenced by the food of Northern Italy – specifically Modena, with a scattering of Tuscan flavours and influences. Chefs Luca Flammia, Francesco Rota and front-of-house Matteo Neviani have pulled inspiration from their heritage to create an outstanding menu using local produce where possible, and Italian products when a substitute simply will not do. The wine list focuses on both wines from Italy, and Italian styles from Australia. There is also a focused range of cockatils, including of course the classic Negroni which we had to have.
The City Lane was invited to try a range of dishes from Trattoria Emilia’s menu and although we did not pay on this occasion, have included the prices for your reference.
To start the evening off we were given some fresh bread. Trattoria Emilia isn’t just a restaurant, but also a cafe and bakery too. They supply bread to many a restaurant in the area. The bread is deliciously lights and springy. It’s so delicious in fact there is the danger of filling up on it before you get to your mains. The bread was served with a selection of olives and some delicious peppery oil olive imported from Italy.
Capesante e Bottarga ($24.00)
Our first dish of evening was pan roasted scallops with a sun dried mullet roe mayonnaise. The scallop was beautifully cooked and was complimented by the creamy mayonnaise. This dish was lovely and flawlessly executed however it was not a stand out like some of the other dishes we had throughout the evening.
The poached calamari and zucchini salad served on a bed of Cacciucco sauce was spectucular. The star of this dish was the rich Tuscan Cacciucco sauce. The acidic seafood based sauce highlighted the subtle flavours of the calamari and zucchini with out overwhelming them. I would recommend using some of the delicious, fluffy bread to soak up the sauce. Something that flavoursome should not go to waste.
Olive Oil Poached Octopus
The calamari was followed by a scrumptious olive oil poached octopus served with crispy capers. Unfortunately this dish was a special and not part of their regular menu. This is a shame as it was one of my favourite dishes from the evening. The octopus was incredibly tender and the crispy capers provided a lovely textural contrast.
Whenever I see a carpaccio on a menu it is a dish I have to order. It is often made poorly made which is evident due to its simplicity – there is no where to hide average ingredients. To make carpaccio well great produce has to be used and in this case it certainly was. The dish used premium eye fillet beef, fresh rocket, parmesan wafers and 25 year aged balsamic from Modena.
Insalata di Carciofi ($15.00)
This salad was a light fragrant salad of marinated artichokes, cauliflower and parmesan. It was textually superb and a good way to make you feel like you are eating something marginally healthy.
Tripe & Beans
This dish is no longer on the menu however it deserves an honourable mention. It is a testament to the fact that tripe can be delicious when prepared properly. The tripe was slowly braised in a tomato sauce and served with cannolini beans. The taste was divine and the texture was so tender. People of Melbourne, when you claim you want authenticity and then don’t order dishes like this, you’re actions aren’t speaking to your words. Live a little.
Filetto di Maiale Lardellato ($34.00)
This dish was comprised of a juicy Pork fillet wrapped in pancetta with sour cherries. The flavours and textures were beautifully balanced here. Sweet, salty, sour, moist, crunchy and tender. There was a lot going on in each mouthful and everything just worked perfectly in unison. We were also treated to a side of roasted pork loin with a beautiful layer of melt-in-your-mouth fat that isn’t normally on the menu. If it’s a special when you visit, order it.
Viennetta 2015 ($17.00)
The Viennetta was spectacularly creamy and completely decadent. It comprised of a rich hazelnut semifreddo, ricotta and chocolate mousse with a brandy sauce. This is a dessert you will be unwilling to share once you take your first bite. A world away from the Streets version you remember from when you were a kid and your parents took out the “adult ice-cream”.
Trattoria Emilia is a refreshing addition to the Melbourne dining scene. I was so impressed by the menu that I returned a week later with a group of fussy relatives who absolutely loved the food. This is one place that needs to be added to your list of places to try.
Rear of Gills Alley
360 Little Collins Street
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 10:00pm
Sat: 8:00am to 10:00pm