One of my top ten meals of all time was a fettucine with truffle shavings at Ristorante Maccheroni in Rome - a small, rustic spot in Piazza delle Coppelle that was recommended by just about every local I spoke with. Maybe it was all that Italian wine, or the warm, balmy night that had us wandering around Piazza Navona and the Pantheon under moonlight...but to this day, I still dream about that meal.
Around a year after my trip, when it was time to return the favour and dish out recommendations to a visitor from Rome, I recommended what I believe is Montreal's version of Maccheroni: Da Emma. "Its a classic roman italian restaurant in a historic women's prison in Old Montreal, with food that will make you feel like you are at home, and a space that is cozy, intimate and surprisingly romantic" I wrote. "Loved it. You were right, we were at home!" was the thankful response I received a few weeks later.
At Da Emma, grilled bruschetta is brought to your table while you peruse chalkboard menus. Start with their caprese salad ($18), and try their fettucini with porcini mushrooms ($25) for a main, as it is an absolute must! Also, their gnocchi ($22), which is made fresh on Thursdays, holds a special place in my heart, and is a perfect comfort dish come winter.
The presentation at Da Emma is typical of roman Italian cuisine; the simplicity of the plate creates a home-cooked quality that will leave you glancing into the kitchen for Emma, who is in fact always there, cooking away. The service is attentive, but not sharp - remember that in Italy, good food is slow food, so try to make sure you aren't in a hurry, order a nice bottle of red from their fantastic wine list, and enjoy the intermittent conversation between servings. That equation sums to the perfect, little, three hour Roman Holiday.
Lastly, if it happens to be summertime, reserve well in advance for a seat on their terrace; it is one of the nicest in the city and is perfectly situated for a post-dinner stroll around Old Port to walk-off all that pasta!
Da Emma | 777 Rue de la Commune Ouest | Montreal, QC | H3C 1Y1 | (514) 392-1568 |