La Perla

February 8, 2010By Richard HesseArchive

Bertie and the Pizzamen

la perla restaurant, paris
Bertie the Gastrohound poses with the La Perla dream team.

Bertie the Gastrohound will be five years old next month. He came into our lives as a three-month-old pup on July 15, 2003, in the midst of that memorable heat wave that killed large numbers of Paris’s elderly. My girlfriend and I had decided to repaint the living room in the flat I had recently moved into, so all the furniture was piled up in the middle of the room, and Bertie had to spend quite a bit of time in a very restricted space. It wasn’t a very auspicious start for him, poor mite. But as responsible dog parents, and having read a slew of books on bringing up Scotties (“Obedience isn’t their strong suit”), we decided to start his training that very first evening by taking him to La Perla, our fall-back pizzeria in the rue Montorgueil, which saw quite a bit of us over the next couple of weeks. Bertie sat under my chair outside in the street, shredded my paper napkin and went to sleep.

That was the summer La Perla opened, and I have mentioned before how it was an immediate success. The crew – Francesco, the owner; Aldo and Enzo, who had followed Francesco from one restaurant to another for decades; the witty, soft-spoken Christian; and the shy, teenaged Paulo behind the bar – were all part of the success. Apart from Enzo, who transferred when Francesco opened another place in the 16th arrondissement about three years back, the rest of the employees are all still there and have been joined by the genial Piero (holding Bertie’s leash in the photo).

These guys are the dream team for any restaurant, and I hope the new owner (Francesco is now enjoying a hard-earned retirement in the South of France) realizes how lucky he is. They work hard and are consistently pleasant, although Enzo might start humming manically when having to deal with a particularly dumb customer. Add good pizzas and a few offbeat Italian dishes, and you have the kind of place where you love to eat when you’re not seeking to sail uncharted culinary waters or embark on gastronomic derring-do.

The place has had a massive makeover since the new owner took over, and pretty successful it is, too. The maroon walls and comfortable seating have taken La Perla a couple of notches upscale, and the terrace is a great place for people-watching in warm weather. Best of all, the narrow staircase down to the basement bathrooms has been widened, and the original toilets, which would have been serious contenders for the “Smallest Stall in Paris” title, have been replaced by clean, roomy, stylish successors. The upgraded kitchen even looks as if it and its staff could meet European Union hygiene standards, which I reckon could be a rarity in the City of Light.

The list of pizzas contains all the usual suspects. The dough is excellent and the toppings good quality. You shouldn’t have any bad surprises – except that they don’t offer pepperoni. The chefs do some pretty tasty things with ravioli and gnocchi too, with diverse combinations of truffles, Parma ham, figs, shrimp and what-have-you. One of my favorite main dishes, deep-fried zucchini sticks, has, unfortunately, gone from the menu, although that’s probably good for my cholesterol count. There’s tiramisu and grappa for dessert, and a drinkable bottle of Valpolicella Classico will set you back less than €20.

The word I have been reaching for to describe La Perla is “undemanding.” It’s a restful place and doesn’t make any particular demands on either your taste buds or your pocket book, while at the same time giving you an excellent ride. Long may it remain a little jewel among eateries.

Richard Hesse

La Perla: 5, rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 41 94 53. Métro: Châtelet-Les Halles. Nearest Vélib’ stations: 2 rue de Turbigo, Allée André Breton. Open daily for lunch and dinner. A la carte: around €20-€25*.

*three courses, not including wine.

© 2008 Paris Update

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