Restaurant Review: Emilio’s

From the pesce of the Ligurian sea to the carni of the Umbrian hills

A Breath of North Italy in Harrison

From the pesce of the Ligurian sea to the carni of the Umbrian hills


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Two years ago I spent part of winter in the north of Italy. It was cold, but I could have breathed that air forever—it was Italian air. Tonight, I hoped to breathe it again within the borders of Emilio’s, the  Brasesco family’s Harrison restaurant.


Inside, the atmosphere is heavy with rough-hewn wood and heavier still with Italian accents. White stucco walls are adorned with the scarlet of poinsettias in copper pots. Tuxedoed waiters are incongruously formal, but when they’re pouring Ligurian olive oil and bringing crusty bread, who’s noticing? Our ’97 Brunello di Montalcino is cherry-scented velvet, and the antipasti cart is vivid with roasted, marinated treasures. We point at it madly, making our choices with hungry eyes. The cart is rolled away. We pour more oil, we drink, we talk, we wait for our antipasti. And wait. We can survive on bread and oil for only so long. Oh, for those glossy Tuscan beans, that oozy caponata, the silky peppers and glistening asparagus, the pearly disks of octopus in lemon and extra-virgin! Finally they’re set down and devoured—though in dire need of salt and fresh-ground pepper.


A sleepy side of polenta is jolted by a melt of Gorgonzola, and a half order of the day’s special shellfish ravioli arrives plump and fragrant. All Emilio’s pastas are house-made daily by matriarch Lidia, but maybe she should be cooking them too; our ravioli is somewhat underdone around the edges. Its parsley-flecked lobster sauce, though, is luscious, and its shrimp-and-lobster filling exquisitely soft.

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From the pesce of the Ligurian sea to the carni of the Umbrian hills, my roasted rabbit entrée is a heap of meaty chunks and Gaeta olives glazed in a thyme-scented pan sauce. If only the chunks had more meat and less bone, and if only the meat were moister. But they sprawled over a soft polenta cushion embossed with a bright swirl of carrot purée and crisp-tender zucchini batons.


The northern city of Parma boasts many gifts, its ham among the best of them. Emilio’s tops it with sage, rolls it in sautéed veal scallopini, roasts it with cremini, portabellos and shiitakes, then bathes it in a veal stock reduction. A perfect combination that would be a perfect dish had the veal been more tender. No such problem with the Hudson Valley poussin, roasted to Balsamic-glazed perfection, or the branzino special, swaddled in a bronzed potato crust. 


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Plates empty, bottle dry, we eye the dessert cart. I staked my claim on the cheesecake when it arrived, and now, assured with a definite nod that it’s Italian, not American, dive in. Was it a language barrier? I wanted ricotta, I got Philadelphia. Luckily my friends are less appalled and graciously trade their ivory dome of cinnamon mousse. I’m soothed by its toasty silk, then completely mollified by the uncanny tiers of chocolate spongecake, hazelnut and chocolate mousse and by the wafer crunch of a timbale di Nocciola. Coffee was invented to follow a dessert like this.  The decaf I ordered is watery, but my husband sacrifices his sumptuous cappuccino, and I’m soothed again, enveloped in the fragrance of Italian air.



1 Colonial Place, Harrison

(914) 835-3100



Lunch, Tue. to Fri. 12-2:30 pm

Dinner, Tue. to Thurs. 5:30-9:30 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5:30-10:30 pm, Sun. 5-9 pm

Appetizers: $6.50-$14

Entrées: $17-$30

Desserts: $7.25

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