Jingumae 2-chome: Italian
Emilia (Jingumae 2-chome: Italian)
Open 11:30am-2, 5:30-10:30pm (LO). Closed Thursdays.
Sun: Open Sundays

Emilia serves great northern Italian cuisine in a relaxed, casual setting - an ideal combination for a comfortable neighborhood restaurant. The chef spent several years honing his pasta-making skills while working in the Emilia region of northern Italy, and local dishes and affordable wines from that area and nearby Piedmont are well represented on the menu.

At dinnertime we'd suggest starting off with the always reliable mixed appetizer platter. A typical day's offering might include bite-sized portions of parmesan gelato, liver pate, mortadella, polenta and the like. On a recent visit we enjoyed some excellent smoked gizzard, quite tender and bursting with flavor, while our marinated artichoke hearts and ratatouille were well balanced with just the right touch of tartness. The fragrant, freshly baked focaccia was an added treat.

The pastas - tagliatelle, tortellini, ravioli - are all magnificent, but save some room for the main course. One notable specialty of the kitchen is the selection of game birds - squab, guinea fowl and Barbary duck - all raised at the Ninomiya farm in Ibaraki Prefecture and all quite skillfully prepared.

The roast squab is served very rare and really packs a punch, with concentrated gamey flavors. Seasonal vegetables - turnips, baked onion, baby corn - are moist and succulent and provide the perfect foil for the intensity of the meats. Emilia's excellent Hokkaido venison is another standout and well worth a special visit when the autumn season brings it to the menu.

The dining space has a laid-back, neighborhood vibe - chalkboard menu, trattoria-style tables, curtained-off booths and a spacious counter area. The lunch menu is a la carte, so you're not limited to the usual lunch specials; mains start at around Y1,800, or you can just get a pasta. The wine list offers good selection and good value, with a half-dozen wines by the glass. Budget around Y6,000-8,000 at dinnertime.

by Robb Satterwhite
Jingumae 2-chome
Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 2-25-4.
東京都渋谷区神宮前2-25-4 パストラーレ神宮前1F
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Venue listing from Bento.com5 Star Rating: highly recommended