Osteria Ferrara’s dining room.
I’ve been waiting a long time for Sicilian chef Fabrizio Ferrara, who made his name in Paris with the minuscule Caffè dei Cioppi, to open the new restaurant he promised when he launched the deli and lunch spot La Dispensa in the 10th arrondissement last year. Ça y est. I ate at the new Osteria Ferrara the other night and was overjoyed on all counts.
Ferrara, in keeping with modern eating habits, has wisely dispensed with the usual Italian menu formula of antipasto, primo piatto (pasta or risotto) and secondo piatto (meat or fish), with perhaps a dish of vegetables on the side or a salad afterward. Few people are inclined to eat that way today. Instead he offers several interesting first courses and main courses that include pasta, meat and fish choices, leaving it up to the diner to decide.
Our meal started out beautifully with, for me, chicken livers cooked to tender pink perfection, in a salad of baby spinach with toasted
almonds, topped with waffle potato chips. My friend Mary had a delightful salad of fior di latte (cow’s milk) mozzarella, cucuzza (a Sicilian squash) and vinaigrette made with anchovies and lemon. Fresh mint added a
surprising touch of brightness to this satisfying and refreshing starter.
Then came the dish to die for: my risotto (made with sun-dried Vialone Nano rice, according to the menu) with sublime Italian
sausage, rosemary and Verdelli lemons (grown according to a special method in Sicily). This rich, complex dish had us both sighing with pleasure. If you order it, allow for a longish wait, as any risotto worth its name cannot be pre-cooked. The al dente grains of rice were proof that someone in the kitchen had made it up fresh.
Mary had the fettucce (similar to fettuccini but wider) made with Sicilian wheat and served in a tomato sauce with Sicilian shrimp (in case
you hadn’t noticed, the chef takes great pride in using the products of his native island). It, too, was delicious and perfectly cooked, but she was still jealous of my risotto.
When our desserts arrived, Mary was a little disappointed by her cake made with organic 71-percent chocolate, with rum and oranges. I
thought it was fantastic. For my part, I was a bit disappointed by my sbrisolone (a dry almond cookie) served with mascarpone
cream. She thought it was fabulous. So we did the obvious and swapped, to our mutual satisfaction.
The best Italian food is wonderful because of the quality of the ingredients, and Ferrara certainly cannot be faulted on that count. Or on any other, except maybe presentation. The risotto and desserts did not look very attractive on the plate, but who cares when they taste this good and come in generous servings at reasonable prices.
By the way, La Dispensa still exists but is owned by someone else. And Ferrara now owns the Pizzeria dei Cioppi, named after his first restaurant and located near the new one so he can keep an eye on it. I can’t wait to try his pizza, which will, I presume, have a touch of Sicilian pizzazz.
Osteria Ferrara: 7, rue du Dahomey Paris 75011. Métro: Faidherbe Chaligny. Tel.: 01 43 71 67 69. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Closed Saturday-Sunday. A la carte: around €40.
Pizzeria dei Cioppi: 44, rue Trousseau, 75011 Paris. Métro: Ledru Rollin. Tel.: 09 84 48 14 58. Open daily for lunch and dinner.