Trattoria Emilia at home reviewed

Published on 5 May 2020

Is there a more fitting trio of words for these times than “comfort food box”? Trattoria Emilia’s newly launched meal kits push all the right buttons, with lasagne, eggplant parmigiana and more goodies tucked inside. Pat Nourse takes one for a spin.

The order: One Traditional Comfort Food Box (there’s also a Vegetarian box). The Trad comprised:

“Small things”

  • Marinated olives
  • Olive-oil focaccia
  • Mortadella mousse
  • Two kinds of cheese
  • Blood-orange jam
  • Pickles

“More substantial things”

  • Traditional lasagne
  • Two “nests” of dried handmade tagliatelle
  • Ragù Bolognese (in a vacuum-sealed bag)
  • Lamb spezzatino (in a vacuum-sealed bag)

“Something sweet”

  • A hazelnut and cumquat tart

The review: The pandemic has been full of surprises, not all of them entirely grim. Turns out there’s not much Australians want more in a crisis than lasagne, even if they’ve never been closer to Italy than Lygon Street. So we must count ourselves fortunate that Melbourne is home to a trattoria called Emilia, which in turn is home to a chef raised in the egg-enriched, butter-drenched region of that name, which also happens to be the true home of the ragù Bolognese. It’s no secret that Francesco Rota knows his way around the grand cuisine of northern Italy, but it’s very comforting to find that he has translated the joys of his culinary heritage to takeaway form with such success.

The Comfort Food Box is designed to provide multiple meals for two people. Everything’s made fresh, too, so you can have the lasagne tonight and the tagliatelle Bolognese tomorrow, knowing that the spezzatino (a stew made, in this case, with lamb and potatoes) will still be good a couple of days from now. You’ll want to eat the olive-oil focaccia straight away, of course; spread with the mortadella mousse, it’ll take you straight to Modena in a flash – even more so if you’ve added a good Lambrusco to your order. And, if you’re like me, you might find yourself toasting some of that focaccia, giving it a schmear of the mortadella and a swipe of the blood-orange jam (which is really supposed to go with the cheeses, but I regret nothing). All up, it’s a substantial offering, and there's also add-ons aplenty, whether it’s drygoods (Italian tuna, coffee, oil, rice and the like) and boxes of produce or polenta biscuits, cauliflower gratin and a bangin’ eggplant parm. (These last two dishes, incidentally, also form the heart of the Vegetarian Comfort Box.) 

And the lasagne? A loose, gooey, gorgeous, over-the-top drift of supple sheets of pasta and deeply flavoured ragù surfing a wave of besciamella. It smells of nutmeg, cheese and of gathering around the hearth as the winter nights draw near. I think you’ll like it very much. I certainly did.

Paired with: We’ve just started on Gangs of London at our place. Think the high-octane chop-socky wallop of cutting-edge action sequences from The Raid director Gareth Evans blended with the ooright-guvnor tradition of London crime drama that tips the flat-cap to everyone from Guy Ritchie to Arthur Daley and the Krays. (It’s on Sky Atlantic, so you’ll need VPN to watch it for now.)

Price: $110 per box

Leftover potential: Strong. Except for the lasagne – even the foil tray was spotless by the end of the night. (Might be an idea to add a spare to your order, just to be on the safe side.)

Pick up or delivery? Free delivery for orders over $110, minimum spend of $60, contactless delivery available. No pick up.

Booze delivery option? Yes – a hip Italian wine selection with a smattering of Victorians, plus fancy beers from Baladin.

Why you should order it: Making your own lasagne and Bolognese is a lot of fun, but so too is its magical appearance at the front door. And hey, benchmarking is a beautiful thing.

Trattoria Emilia, rear of 360 Little Collins St, via Gills Alley, Melbourne. Comfort Box orders taken on Mondays and Tuesdays for Thursday delivery, orders taken on Wednesdays and Thursdays for Saturday delivery. (More delivery days coming soon.) emiliamelbourne.com.au

By Pat Nourse