Da Emanuel combines sublime cuisine with down-to-earth service
A generalization of Italian restaurants is that a trattoria is a down-to-earth, family-run establishment, while a ristorante is more expensive fine dining. The beauty of Da Emanuel in Bubeneč is it takes the best characteristics of each – namely, personal, friendly service; a welcoming, social atmosphere; and sublime culinary achievements – and melds them together into a memorable, four-star experience.
Such attentive service, combined with a quality of food virtually unparalleled in Prague, all from an owner (the eponymous Emanuele) who makes the rounds to ensure patrons are happy, adds up to an exceptional dining experience.
The menu at Da Emanuel changes regularly, depending on what is in season and which ingredients are freshest. Emanuel also runs a deli next door for Italian specialty imports, and the care that goes into deciding the day’s offerings is apparent.
While all dishes excel, certain ones go above and beyond. The grilled calamari starter puts to shame the rubbery circles proffered elsewhere around town. The meaty tubes were flame-broiled into a luscious texture, and the balsamic reduction plated with it brought out the seaside and emphasized ooh-inspiring elements not normally associated with squid.
The beef carpaccio with Parmesan and rucola, while heavy-laden with slivers of meat, paled slightly in comparison, as the sharpness of the cheese overtook the slightness of flavor. The rucola, however, presented a tang that managed to mitigate the mix of sharp and slight in an infused mouthful.
The minestrone soup is hearty, harmonizing carrots, tomatoes and herbs in a satisfying bowl. The only drawback is it’s almost regretfully filling with other dishes to come.
Da Emanuel clearly prides itself on its fresh fish, and the menu includes items that demonstrate the kitchen’s confidence. Linguine with tiger prawns features supple, homemade pasta twisted with zucchini slices and prawns so numerous that one doesn’t need to ration them out. And the meatiness of the shelled crustaceans is mouth-watering.
The lobster ravioli takes the wow factor to a whole new level. What looks like just a few pretty pieces proves more than ample: The pasta melts on the tongue, and the lobster-cream filling is so fresh and flavorful that each bite is worth savoring.
Da Emanuel also wields a fish show, a platter brought to the table full of writhing crustaceans and odd-looking sea critters. Our waiter recommended the sea scorpion, which, as he pointed out, was the “ugliest fish” but proved delectable in a tomato-and-olive sauce whipped up within minutes. Having seen the beast only moments before, the freshness was apparent in the resulting muskiness, not masked by the sauce but enhanced.
The chefs are equally confident with turf plates. The menu boasted a 500-gram marbled T-bone steak, which can otherwise be hard to come by in this country. Filet mignon wrapped in bacon with Chianti sauce stood out, as well. A full-bodied glass of red wine (ordered on the waiter’s recommendation) brought out the intricacies of the quality steak, which was at once salty from the bacon and springy from the cut.
It is absolutely vital to save room for dessert, as Da Emanuel boasts “the world’s best tiramisu.” This is how our waiter described it, and I must concur, as it transformed my opinion of the Italian cake. A generous square, layered with balanced creaminess and fluffiness, would have been big enough to share, but I greedily devoured it myself.
Da Emanuel brims with conviviality. Businessmen, dressed-down friends, lovers: All lean across their tables comfortably as the wine flows freely, the candles flicker and soft music plays. Because the service is not “silver service” per se, it doesn’t warrant four stars. But, personally, I will take friendly and thoughtful over starched formality any day.
Reservations are a good idea any time of the week. When you dine at Da Emanuel, you’ll see why.
Da Emanuel Italian Restaurant
Visiting Da Emanuel means entering a tiny, brick-arched room of maybe 10 tables, with a wall of windows looking out over a leafy patio and the neighborhood street, and being greeted by a wait staff so personable the waiter remembered which wine my companion and I preferred from our previous visit.VIEW ON MAP VISIT PAGE
Charlese de Gaulla 4
Tel. 224 312 934
Open daily noon-11 p.m.
From the menu:
Minestrone soup 130 Kč
Grilled calamari 250 Kč
Linguine with tiger prawns 250 Kč
Sea scorpion to order 540 Kč
Lobster ravioli 450 Kč
Filet mignon wrapped in bacon with Chianti reduction 490 Kč
Tiramisu 110 Kč
Glass of red wine 180 Kč