A classy setting for a stellar Italian deli and lunch spot.
Paris has lost a wonderful little Italian restaurant, Caffè dei Cioppi, but has gained La Dispensa. Sicilian chef Fabrizio Ferrara has closed his trattoria in an alleyway of the 12th arrondissement and opened a lunch spot/Italian deli on an equally obscure side street in the 10th, where I treated myself to lunch the other day.
The interior is attractively done up in the now-ubiquitous Scandi-modern style and blond wood, and is lined with shelves stocked with the usual tempting, overpriced products found in Paris’s Italian delis, many of them
organic: fancy pasta, canned tomatoes, a big jar of plump, succulent-looking oversized capers, etc. The deli counter offers prepared foods – lasagna, pizza, stuffed focaccia, etc. – and selected Italian charcuteries, cheeses and wines.
Aside from one couple, obviously a friend of the chef, who sat and chatted with them throughout their meal, I was the only customer having lunch at 2pm, rather late, it’s true. I couldn’t resist ordering the daily special, Sicilian sausage made with fennel seeds and served with potatoes. But when the Calabrese cook told me the gorgeous red tomatoes he was cutting up were imported from Italy, I asked him to substitute a salad of tomatoes and arugula for the potatoes. He happily complied and even threw in a few potatoes along with the salad.
The tomatoes were as luscious as I had expected them to be, and the roasted potatoes were cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection.
The sausage was rather hard and not as juicy as the fat fennel-flavored sausages I remember from street fairs in New York’s Little Italy, but it was very tasty and even better accompanied by the great crusty baguette that came with it.
The high point of this simple meal made with high-quality ingredients was the dessert: a creamy-smooth, not-too-sweet pannacotta
topped with some of the wonderful fresh strawberries that were perfectly aligned in one of the bins of fresh produce sitting here and there in the shop. In their sweet syrup they
gave off a heavenly fragrance. The bottom of the dish, which I arrived at quickly in spite of my resolve not to eat the whole thing, was lined with grains of real vanilla, a sign of the attention that went into its making.
Dispensa is not open for dinner, and I worried that I would never again taste Ferrara’s divine pasta with truffles, a dish from Caffè dei Cioppi that is carefully stored in the compartment of my memory reserved for transcendent meals, but who knows, it may pop up as a daily pasta special at La Dispensa. Not only that, but he told me that he will be opening a new restaurant on the nearby Rue des Vinaigriers within a couple of years. Now there’s something to look forward to, although I’d really rather not wait that long.