Thursday, 3 September 2009

Cafe dei Cioppi


In stark contrast to Londoners and New Yorkers, Parisians are not in thrall to either a real or imagined dolce vita. At the simplest level, many believe that France contains the ne plus ultra of all that is significant: culture, history, language, cuisine and natural beauty. Accordingly, Parisians are far more likely to take their holidays domestically: in Brittany, the Dordogne or on their own (sizeable) Mediterranean coastline. Even with a long shared border, spanning from the Alps south to the Riviera, Italian cultural permeation is limited.

Add to this the absence of any significant Italian immigration to the French capital, and it is perhaps unsurprising that even the simplest red-sauce restaurants tend to disappoint. I was therefore dubious when a shoebox of an Italian cafe opened down the street a few months back. What were the chances that a kitchen smaller than mine would be turning out anything more than mediocre, overpriced pasta?

A few glowing, big-gun reviews were necessary before I realised that I was, quite possibly, entirely wrong, a fact which has been subsequently—and joyfully—confirmed over three of the best restaurant meals I’ve eaten in Paris. The kitchen has a talent for making the most unassuming dishes on the seasonal, pared-down menu—a cold courgette and mint soup, or pasta puttanesca—not only worthwhile to order, but befuddlingly delicious. Lasagne is another unlikely star; last week’s pumpkin and sausage rendition was rich with b├ęchamel and lustily seasoned, the Platonic ideal of a season-shifting dish.

A simple salad of burrata, vegetables and leaves shows off good sourcing, and someone in the operation has an eye for unusual wines (all available by the glass). Even desserts, rarely a high point of Italian meals, are near-perfect. A dollop of mascarpone would have been lovely with the fig and ricotta cake, though you can see we had no difficulty in going without.

On our first visit, an outside table was occupied by some larger-than-life artist and designer types, with the leader of the pack, a Christian Louboutin look-alike, sporting a T-shirt that matched his saffron-rich risotto. None have been so obviously colourful since, but the close quarters, the alley-way full of hanging vines and bicycles and Franco-Italian mix of staff and customers all yield an unselfconsciously cosmopolitan atmosphere.

My living room, though a mere 150 metres away, is probably a bit too far for overflow seating. But I wonder whether they might be amenable to a dishwashing-lasagne exchange. Best reason I can think of to work on that glass-polishing...

159 rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine 75011
01-43-46-10-14
Monday-Friday lunch; Wednesday-Friday dinner
Metro: Ledru-Rollin

1 comment:

Cindy said...

We found our information on your blog !

Hello,

Allow me to present myself: I am Cindy, information manager for the French travel guide collection: Seriousguide
Seriousguide are collaborative travel guides, indeed the information they provide comes from personal travellers experiences related on our website: www.seriousguide.fr
This year, we have published our first issues, that is to say : Andalucia, South Morocco, Barcelona and Corsica. Our next guide is on Paris.
Our website is opened and travels published by Internet users represent an essential information for our printed guides.
However, we also notice interesting contains from others blogs.
That’s why we pre-select Caffe dei Cioppi in Paris that you seemed to have enjoy a lot. So we sent one of our correspondents on the spot to check out every detail we needed to publish it in our Paris Seriousguide.
If we decide to keep this activity for our guide, we would like to quote your pseudonym as our first source for this activity.
I want to emphasis on the fact that we are not going to use the text you wrote for your blog, but we want to mention you since it’s thanks to you that we found this interesting information.
If you agree, could you please send me your answer by email at the following address: documentation[at]seriousguide.fr?
You can also create your profile on www.seriousguide.fr in order to describe your travels and be informed about our publications.
Best regards,
Cindy