Simone & Nicola
92, rue de la Roquette, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 43 71 77 46. Tues–Sun, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
If you can’t get into La Tête dans Les Olives, the tiny olive oil shop that serves occasional meals to one lucky table of five, consider having lunch at the Paris restaurant Simone & Nicola, an Italian épicerie à manger not far from the Bastille.
The idea is similar. Nicola Caldone, an importer of Italian specialty foods who supplies many top tables, has partnered with chef Simone Zanoni (last seen at Le Petit Trianon in Versailles) to create a lovely grocery-slash-restaurant in Paris, with a menu based on what’s on the shelves.
In other words, it’s lunch as sales pitch. And it’s an effective one. Crostini arrived first, smeared with pungent olive paste, followed by a platter of antipasti showing off a few stars from the stocks: a wobbly, creamy mini-burrata; sweet roasted yellow peppers, agrodolce (sweet and sour) onions; and nutty marinated artichokes. Next was a charcuterie plate, which had not only a de rigueur ruffle of prosciutto but a wonderfully thin-sliced mortadella and spicy sopressata.
Tagliatelle with smoked salmon and ricotta.
The kitchen turns out hot food, too. On this day there was a potimarron soup, rich but not creamy, relying on good seasoning and, perhaps, a bit of chicken stock for depth. It was topped with a shaving of Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. We also had the pasta of the day, tagliatelle with smoked salmon, ricotta and herbs—a perfect brunch pasta, I suppose. The food is good here because the ingredients are good, plain and simple.
Dessert was a silky panna cotta topped with a marmalade of Sicilian oranges, which reminded me that my jar at home, purchased not long ago, was almost empty.
Nicola told us that they’d soon be opening a sandwich shop on the corner. The entrance to the grocery is down passage Charles Dallery, facing a quiet little park that gives the place a calm and airy feel even though it’s just steps from busy rue de la Roquette. It feels less like a Paris restaurant than a very nice home kitchen, one stocked with five kinds of canned tomatoes and equipped with a Berkel slicer.
Lunch was a very reasonable 16 euros, though a 7 euro glass of wine took away some of the joy I initially felt in thinking I was in for a real bargain. Still, it’s cheaper than a ticket to Positano, and I for one could use a taste of sunny Italy to break up the gray Paris winter every now and then.
In a nutshell: Simone & Nicola brings the best of the Italian pantry to the table.
Price check: Lunch formule, 16 euros; à la carte items will cost more.
In the mood for Italian but want more of a proper ristorante? Try the convivial Olio Pane Vino. Read the review.
Olio Pane Vino
44, rue Coquillière, in the 1st.
01 42 85 27 33. Lunch, Mon–Sat; dinner, Thurs and Fri only.
La Tête dans Les Olives
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