For the longest time, downtown dwellers and aficionados have bemoaned the fact that, of all the great and diverse number of eateries located there, there has not been in ages even one honest to goodness upscale Italian restaurant — only pizza places.
But now we have two authentic high-end Italian restaurants within easy walking distance of each other. Primo Ristaurante Italiano, located in the Sunsphere and operated by Chef Bruce Bogartz, has been open a few months, and Emilia, located on Market Square and operated by Chef Matt Gallaher of Knox Mason, opened just last week. (Click here for a report on a recent visit to Primo. Read on for more info about Emilia.)
We were at Emilia, located at 16 Market Square in the space where Latitude 35 used to be, this past Saturday and the place was full. Walk-ins were being turned away. Fortunately, my brilliant husband had made a reservation for our party of four. I predict we will be back often.
Love, love the new look and the cool, casual vibe. Also love it that you can count on seeing lots of other folks you know, so table-hopping is rampant. The stairs to Latitude’s downstairs have been covered up, so the dining room feels totally different. Service is excellent and, most importantly, so is the food.
We started with warm green olives seasoned with Calabarian chile, garlic and thyme. What a nice little nibble. And I, personally, could have made a meal out of the warm housemade foccacia with a terrific spread of Cruze Farm ricotta with Georgia olive oil, flaky sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
The menu is very diverse with something to accommodate every taste and food preference. Meats range from a 12-ounce Mitchell Farm rib eye to half of a Springer Mountain Farms chicken cooked “under a brick.” There’s also lamb and pork belly and meatballs. Seafood includes steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, roasted salmon “puttanesca” and Fisherman’s Stew. And the pastas, all made in house, change often. On Saturday, there were four different pasta dishes, as well as a lobster risotto, potato gnocchi primavera and a fabulous sounding polenta dish. (All pasta dishes can be made celiac friendly with Avanti Savoia imported gluten free noodles.)
And wait until you see the range of desserts. My husband and his sweet tooth were in heaven.
We were glad we were going to see Kenny G and the Knoxville Symphony Pops Orchestra at the Civic Auditorium because it gave us a chance to walk off some of that delicious food.
(In case you were wondering, we do not represent Emilia. Other than the two complimentary desserts, we paid full price for everything.)