Autentico Italiano© by John Axelrod Contact

where to find the best italian food outside Italy

Autentico Italiano in France:

Pepe e Sale in Nantes

The location could not be better. Across from the Centre du Congrés and the Novotel in Nantes, my home away from home, Pepe e Sale (Salt and Pepper) offers the full Autentico Italian treatment. Salvatore and his “family” don’t give a menu. You simply sit and he brings what he is cooking. A variety of special pizzas and pastas, most notably a delicious penne gorgonzola e noci. As soon as the plate is finished, out he comes, smiling, with the pan full of pasta asking, “un poco di piu?” Hours have been spent in this trattoria who treats everyone as the patrone.

Firenze in Paris

The Avenue du Versailles is like a little Italy, with nearly a dozen Italian restaurants near each other, all in walking distance from Radio France and the Tour Eiffel. Firenze is something rare in Paris: an Autentico Italiano open late on a sunday. How often does one find a salad of burrata di Puglia with tomatoes, olives, rocket salad and aged balsamico on a menu? And authentic Italian in France means not only great Italian food, but also great bread, something the Italian kitchen often lacks. True, foccaccia and sweet brioches are typical in every Italian bar, but when compared to the French boulangerie, I have to give the edge to the French. Something about balsamico lapped up with a baguette brings an expatriate smile to my face.

But who needs bread when you have pasta, the starch of choice in Italy. And the penne al arrabiata hit all the right spots: Spicy, tangy and even sweet, the penne cooked al dente and perfectly sauced.

A shame the saddle of lamb with carciofi alla romana was, well, too French. Roasted and seasoned like a restaurant vying for a Michelin star, it was tasty but a little too calculated. Gone was the simplicity. In its place was pedantic preparation. I missed the con amore. It was more avec plaisir.

Nevertheless, I can recommend Firenze for the tourist after the trip up the tower, or after a concert at Radio France, especially on a Sunday. Nothing like a good Chianti Classico and classic tiramisu afterwards to bring me back down to the garden of Earthly delights.

Firenze Ristorante e Pizzeria
30, Avenue de Versailles
75016, Paris
01 45 24 34 98

Sale e pepe, Tavola Calda.
2 rue de Jemmapes.
44000 NANTES
Tel : 02 40 47 87 39