Comfort Food all’Italiano
|The chefs have nothing to hide at Innamorati Caffè.|
Finally, Paris has a few Italian restaurants offering something other than the standard menu Italy has so successfully exported around the world: pizza, lasagna, veal piccata, etc. In the 10th arrondissement, for example, the Neapolitan owners of La Madonnina, with its spirited ambiance, religious-kitsch decor and excellent pasta dishes, have opened an annex down the street serving some of the most authentic and delicious pizzas in town.
And now Salvatore and Rocco, the owners of the Divina Café (45, rue Bayen, 75107 Paris), a popular trattoria, have opened a sister restaurant called Innamorati Caffè in a narrow, block-long storefront space in the third arrondissement and filled it with tables covered in red-and-white-checked tablecloths.
The first time we went there, a friend and I shared something I have despaired of finding in any restaurant – a real risotto. It was made on the spot and served sizzling hot in a cast-iron pot. The rice had a nice al dente bite, and the shellfish accompaniment, sauce and seasonings were perfect as well – buonissimo.
On a return visit, we liked the first-course antipasti that comes with the fixed-price menu better than we did the first time we ordered it. A pile of roquette (arugula) and lettuce is topped with San Daniele dried ham, mortadella, grilled eggplant and marinated artichoke hearts. Diners season it themselves with a big bottle of flavorful olive oil and a smaller one of balsamic vinegar.
This time, there were three of us and we were all delighted with our main courses, which came in impossibly huge portions in their individual cooking pans: suprême de volaille in a rich, creamy sauce with big chunks of tender chicken and homemade cheese-stuffed ravioli, flavored with fresh mint; a marmite (literally, cooking pot) pêcheur, a shellfish stew, with the fish that miraculously was not overcooked, served with the same ravioli; and the pasta of the day – tagliatelle in a creamy sauce flavored with the intriguing combination of saffron and black truffles.
We were much too full for dessert, but we shared one anyway. This was the only disappointment in an otherwise fully pleasing meal: the tiramisu fanatic at our table pronounced it store-bought, nothing like his half-Italian mother used to make. Oh well, who needs dessert anyway after a rich meal like that.
Innamorati Caffè: 57 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris. Métro: République or Temple. Tel: 01.48.04.88.28. Open noon-3 p.m.; 7 p.m.-midnight. Fixed-price menu: €30 with dessert, €25 without; includes a half-bottle of wine.
La Madonnina: 10, rue Marie et Louise, 75010 Paris. Métro : Goncourt. Tel.: 01 42 01 25 26.
Maria-Luisa: 2, rue Marie et Louise, 75010 Paris. Métro : Goncourt. Tel.: 01 44 84 04 01.
© 2007 Paris Update
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