On the Road

Find authentic Northern Italian cooking at Via Emilia 9

With the construction clogging up Alton Road these days, it's hard to think of it as a dining destination. But here's a darn good reason to brave the mayhem: Via Emilia 9, a small trattoria that opened less than two months ago, is as authentic as it gets.

Speaking of roads, the restaurant pays tribute to the main Roman-built trail that united the northern region named after it—Emilia-Romagna—creating a merchant route throughout the cities. You'll recognize some familiar dishes from the region, namely Bolognese sauce (from the capital Bologna), and Parma—you know, the cured ham. Other popular standbys include egg pastas like tortellini and tagliatelle, and of course, Parmigiano-Reggiano.

And with that, you have the main players on Emilia's menu. Pasta fresca is a main component, too, made on a wooden table in the back dining room. If you get there early enough, you can catch Pasta fresca made daily by chef Giancarlo "Wendy" Cacciatori kneading the day's dough.

Given that Italian food is more basic and straightforward than our cultural folklore likes to embrace, it seems fitting that the space is unassuming, with white walls, mismatched chairs and recycled glass-bottle table centerpieces. Untreated shelves stocked with olive oils and wines line the walls alongside chalkboard menus and Mason jar potted herbs. The place looks like an Italian version of an Etsy catalog (in a good way).

The casual modern decor match the rustic northern Italian dishes | Photo: Via Emilia 9

We went for a relaxing lunch, at which specials change frequently. During our visit, half-and-half salad and pasta of the day seemed like the way to go ($15). We really enjoyed the Modenese salad with arugula, cherry totamoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic vinegar; it was the perfect palate teaser.

Fresh tagliatelle was offered in both Bolognese or a creamy sausage and mushroom sauce—we opted for the latter. The sausage not only gave the dish some texture, but it provided a hefty savory aftertaste.

It gets better: With the order of any lunch you will get a free glass of wine, beer or soda. Expect robust Chiantis and nutty Verdicchios.

Here's some insider gossip: When we were there, a group of the servers from big-timer Dolce rode up on their Vespas and took over a table in the back room, where the owner greeted them in animated Italian and treated them like famiglia. Presto! We have our new favorite Italian spot.