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. Lunch starts at just Y1000, but the Y2000 and Y3000 prix-fixe options are worth checking out, as they include many of the main dishes from the dinner menu. The wine list offers good selection and good value, with ample choice in the under-Y7000 category and a half-dozen wines by the glass. Budget around Y5000-8000 at dinnertime.
by Robb Satterwhite