Open Hours: Lunch: 11a-2p M-F, Dinner: 6p-11p M-Sa
One of Montreal's best known Italian restaurants, Da Emma is actually a transplant from Little Italy to Old Montreal; the tradition of fine cuisine ... More
One of Montreal's best known Italian restaurants, Da Emma is actually a transplant from Little Italy to Old Montreal; the tradition of fine cuisine hasn't suffered, even if the current setting is a former prison! It is run with a flair for the dramatic and an obvious love of food. In the Roman tradition, the menu eschews faddish components and sticks to the basics: classics like mozzarella salad and house antipasti, followed by meat-intensive pastas and other main courses. The terrace is wonderful in summer.
The service was horrendous, slow and I would add a tad rude. The waiters oversell the meal, by adding imaginary spices and quite frankly, although it is quite tasty -- it doesn't live up to their sales pitch. The decor is magnificent, medieval somewhat and it is the only thing that keeps me going back. And of course, Emma, she's an absolute darling.
While the food was quite good and the wine selection fine, the service at da emma left much to be desired. We waited 1/2 and hour for someone to clear our dinner paltes and then another 20 minutes until we could summon someone over to bring the cheque. The overall impression we had was one of incongruency -on one hand (literally) there's a beautiful $300 bouquet of flowers placed on the bar and on the other plastic pats of butter on the table (!?). While we were interested enough in the great reputation of this montreal mainstay to try it out, admittedly we felt that sitting in a women's prison casually eating dinner is not something we could 'enjoy'. Our brains (unlike hale berry's) don't shut off enough to stop imagining the crimes and non-crimes women languished in misery for.
We had heard of Da Emma and made resevations for a birthday. We had asked to be seated at the terrace, but it turns out to be a section in the parking lot. Surrounded by a blue torn vinal cover to the street, loud trucks and cars roaring by, no ambiance not even a flower pot. The menu written in Italian, no translation, so you have to memorize what the waiter is explaining and feel embarassed to ask a second time. The prices are redicilous for the quality of food. After all pasta is pasta nothing miracilous about adding red sauce or mushrooms to a tiny plate for $22.00. And the meats are nothing to claim fame for. I am just fed up of being gouged for the sake of snobism, or location ("old Port" tourist trap) and to top it off it really bugs me when a restaurant doesn't carry cream for coffee at$3.00 a pop.You can get a much better atmosphere and excellent food in "little Italy"
Da Emma - Saturday, November 18th
"This place just begs you to be picky."
After hearing suggestions from foodie friends about Da Emma for Italian food, my guest and I ventured out on a blisteringly cold saturday evening by cab for what we thought was going to be an incredible "homemade meal"
While I cannot complain about the look, ambiance and feel of Da Emma (the old jail vibe, low light romance, stone cellar and even the happy celeb photos), something was absolutely wrong.
It didnt start off bad as our hostess Carina was great at making us feel at home and possibly even a little anxious for us to have a great time. She even gave us two options for seating (a noisier area or a quiet place). Since it was Saturday and we were feeling lively, we decided on the noisier part of the 1/2 full restuarant.
Our waiter was mature, experienced and well-mannered but he was a RUSHER. Add that he was a bit cold and dry and he personified exactly what I had hoped Da Emma not to be: Snob-ville
We ordered a bottle of a big red from what is an excellent wine list filled with plenty of choices for the wide number of pasta and meat dishes at Da Emma. That worked.
What didnt work was the menu in very low lighting. We had no problem with the choices but in the dark it was very difficult to see what was for dinner.
My guest had a particularly hard time with the only in Italian menu though and moreso it seemed because of the waiter, who really didnt have any sort of patience.
When asked to slow his delivery down, really ignored her.
At the point of ordering entrees, we still didnt have a good handle on what was what after twice having the rundown in rapid and very soft english in the noisy section of the place.
I recognize that my Italian is not great and I am in Montreal, but our server did not serve. He dictated. My guest did not really get what she wanted because he was all over her with only what he wanted to explain. I'm not sure I can point to where it all fell apart, but that moment stands out.
We got some bread which was incredible, but with no bread knives. There was no salt or pepper on the table (okay, fine.) I had the suppe del giorno which that evening was a veal broth with small pasta balls and my guest had a small salad and both were above average. The wine was too and we settled in for our main course.
My guest (actually our server) ordered the pasta with mushrooms for her, which tasted like it was made at a neighboring Chinese place down the street, lacked any sort of roman quality and was drowning in olive oil.
I had the Polpette al Sugo which floated nicely in a garlic tomato and meat ragu and so perfectly seasoned that I didnt miss the salt and pepper for the table. My side of pasta was average and nothing to write home about.
At this point during dinner, all the mental sweat over getting the menu down, having it explained again and again, and the dishes not being "overwhelming" was irksome but Da Emma did not miss because of the food.
What tipped it over for me to be picky was the service, feeling rushed and the anxiety related to the promise that was not delivered.
While leaving Da Emma I felt I needed to gaze at the wall with the smiling Celeb photos to assure myself that maybe my experience was all just in my head.
Had I gone Hollywood like these folks and had the best Italian meal my dollar could buy in Montreal?
I really enjoyed the ambiance. Partly because of the people I was with and partly due to the bad weather outside on Friday's big snow day.
It was the prefect day for a Christmas lunch.
The food and wine were'nt bad either.
Pasta is the only good meal you can eat there. Do not order anything else. Beside pasta, all the other meals are too salty or no taste at all and every other things overrated. It never worth the money we have been charged.
This is not an irrelevant comment , it is simply the truth.
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