When I heard that the hole-in-the-wall restaurant Procopio Angelo, which served up some of the best and most authentic Italian food in Paris, had closed, I was desolate. I would never again taste chef Angelo′s creamy burrata smothered with San Daniele ham or his pappardelle with white truffles in a buttery sauce, two dishes the memory of which could still get my mouth watering four years after I had first tasted them.
Then, a few months later, the wonderful news came through that the Tuscan Angelo had not left town and was opening a new restaurant — in my neighborhood, no less. I hastened to return. The new place, in an up-and-coming but rather out-of-the-way location behind the Hôpital Saint Louis in the 10th arrondissement, is somewhat bigger than the old Procopio Angelo (it seats about 30), but, like the original, it has an open kitchen so customers can watch the dynamic Angelo at work, and so Angelo can keep an eye on his customers′ reactions to his cooking.
The walls are painted red and orange, which sounds rather awful but isn′t, and the banquettes are covered in colorful fabrics and strewn with cushions. The two rooms are divided by a half-wall of exposed beams. It feels warm and welcoming.
My dining companion and I were both blown away by our starters. Mary had the beignet di ricotta con carciofi e pomodorini secchi, a.k.a. deep-fried ricotta balls (without the slightest trace of oil) served on a bed of finely chopped salad (chicory? a taste of mint?) with artichokes and dried tomatoes. Superb comfort food. Mary proclaimed it awesome. Meanwhile, I was swooning over one of the seasonal specials: a salad of thinly sliced raw ceps with a lemony sauce, generous shavings of Parmesan and a nice bitter edge provided by some arugula and shredded radicchio. Ottimo!
For my next course I ordered that truffled pasta I remembered so fondly. This time it was tagliolini with butter, sage and white truffles, and I hate to say it, but it was a tad disappointing. The pasta was perfect, with truffles showered generously over it, but it needed a little salt to bring out the flavors. This being an Italian restaurant, there was no salt or pepper on the tables as every dish is supposed to arrive perfectly seasoned. I couldn′t bring myself to ask for salt; it would be an insult to the chef, and I was afraid of bringing his scorn upon my head.
Mary′s rigatoni with ceps was another story. Flavorful and satisfying, with al dente chef-made pasta and lots of meaty mushrooms, with a few cherry tomatoes for a bit of color and acidic bite, it was everything that a pasta dish should be. “I′m in heaven,” she kept saying.
For dessert, Mary had the baba al limoncello, which represented another form of paradise. She ate every one of the liqueur-soaked baby babas and their whipped cream. My pannacotta with chocolate was fine but no revelation.
The service was slightly amateurish — the waitress brought the bottle of wine to the table already opened and didn′t offer to let us taste it — but she and the Brazilian waiter were both sweeties, and the red Lacryma Christi from the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius was delicious, so all was forgiven.
I was surprised to see so few Italians in the restaurant, since Angelo′s last place was full of his compatriots, but later in the evening, two large groups of them arrived and the place filled with the musical sound of their language and the lovely smell of garlic cooking.
Mary reported the next day that she had forgotten her umbrella. Obviously an acte manqué to give her an excuse to go back soon — as if an excuse were needed.Favorite