The chef prepares the food before your eyes at Caffè dei Cioppi.
The first sign that things are going to go well at the Caffè dei Cioppi, a charming little Italian restaurant in a quiet little alley just off the Rue du Faubourg …
The first sign that things are going to go well at the Caffè dei Cioppi, a charming little Italian restaurant in a quiet little alley just off the Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, is that you’re offered a carafe d’eau while you wait without even having to ask for it. The next sign is that the menu you’re handed is a menu of the day, so you know everything is going to be fresh. Turn your head slightly and you’re looking at the open kitchen, which takes up half the room. Your taste buds will start humming at the sight of the mouthwatering dishes being prepared right in front of you.
I tried hard to be critical of Caffè dei Cioppi, but it was difficult to find anything negative to say about it. The minimalist decor is very pleasant, with a special mention for the traffic-free terrace, so nothing to knock there. Ah, yes, one table nearly blocks the door to the toilets, so I guess that can count as a flaw.
The fine food is simple, authentic, nicely presented and perfectly cooked by the charming Sicilian chef/owner, who is willing to exchange a friendly word with diners while he works, so nothing wrong there.
To start, my companion had a tasty fresh tomato and basil soup, served with a nice dollop of creamy ricotta, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil (for only €5) while I sampled the burrata (super-creamy mozzarella) with delicate baby artichokes. We followed that with Sicilian lasagna (filled with eggplant rather than meat) – a special success since the pasta wasn’t overcooked, as it so often is – and a generous helping of steaming saffron risotto with shrimp, cooked à la minute. Both dishes were perfectly seasoned.
Our eyes then strayed to the tempting selection of cheeses, but we decided to be “reasonable” and just have dessert. After all, this was lunchtime and we were supposed to be working in the afternoon (maybe just a little siesta…). The apricot tart was the kind you wish you could make at home, with a lovely tender-yet-crispy shortbread crust, a not-too-sweet ricotta-based filling and tangy cooked apricots. The strawberry tiramisu, which doesn’t bear much resemblance to the coffee-flavored original, was basically a lovely combination of strawberries and cream and cake.
The service? Surprisingly in a place this size (about 10 seats inside, and 10 more outside), there are two waiters, which keeps things running smoothly. The man is charming and full of smiles, but the woman (finally, a fault!) didn’t smile much and even made a face when we offered to reach out and take our own dishes from the counter. To be fair, our food arrived on time and none of it fell into our laps.
This is a lovely restaurant, with lots of character. Be sure to book as it fills up fast and is not always open in the evening.
Caffè dei Cioppi: 159, rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, 75011 Paris. Tel.: 0143461014. Métro: Faidherbe Chaligny or Ledru Rollin. Nearest Vélib station: Crozatier. Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch and dinner. A la carte: €30-€40.
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