1.5.10

Italiano at La Buttes-aux-Cailles: Les Cailloux


Last weekend I talked about a contemporary French restaurant that not only impressed me but proved that quality cuisine does still exist in Paris.  I also mentioned that my friend Emily and I happened upon another foodie utopia, Les Cailloux. I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to Italian food. My father's side of the family is Italian and everytime I visit my grandfather, he makes his outstanding tomato sauce that always leaves me wondering why people even bother with the canned stuff. He too has high expectations for Italian food and with good reason. It's like the French and their croissant standards. I can tell you from experience that crummy croissants are an abomination to French pastry tradition, especially when you've had the pleasure of savoring fresh-out-of-the-oven, perfectly flaky croissants au buerre
"The sign of a good baker is a good croissant. If you have a bad one, don't try anything else at that baker's because it won't be any good"(NYT)
 Well, the same goes for Italian food. Much like I wouldn't trust a baguette made in America, I am suspicious o of French-run Italian restaurants. What's the point of forking over 15€ over a plate of spaghetti arrabiata with supermarket-bought pasta and tasteless sauce when you can go to a place with fresh pasta and sauces with Italian owners who can barely take your reservation over the phone in French without dropping a si and grazie? Right, there isn't one and that's exactly the test I use to judge whether an Italian restaurant is worth trying. Les Cailloux passed the test. 
 

At the top of the rue de la Butte aux Cailles in the 13th sits Les Cailloux, an Italian neo-bistro with authentic Tuscan dishes and wine from Puglia. No pizza, no bells and whistles, just extremely friendly servers, modern deco and wines to-go. From the second we sat down, we had a good feeling about the place. The menu was much more original than your average uninspired Italian place with a standard series of pasta dishes, meat and fish options and an unmemorable tiramisu.


While you're definitely going to put down more than 15€ for a main dish, the portions are appropriate. For the first time (ever, I think), I left dinner feeling full but not overly so. I cannot even count the times I've eaten Italian and felt stuffed to the point of illness, repeating "oh I shouldn't have eaten that...". Not here.


Emily and I both had a clear idea of what we wanted to order but we couldn't pass up the homemade ricotta and spinach ravioli in a butter sage sauce. It was a main dish that we split as an appetizer and it was the perfect amount for the two of us. We were awed by the amount of fluffy spinach they stuffed into the pasta and impressed that the spinach maintained its taste without being overpowered by the ricotta. 

  After devouring the ravioli, we were convinced. We knew that the meals that awaited us would be just as good if not better than the appetizer. It was at about this point that I started to say that my husband was foolish not to have joined us. Just another reason to go back. 

Next up, a filet of sea bream coated with herbs on a bed of marinated spinach for me, and grilled calamari with an arugula salad and fennel for Emily who says she's never found it anywhere but in Italy. 2 more points for Les Cailloux. 
  

Despite how much we wanted dessert, we knew that it would put us over the edge and leave us feeling uncomfortably full, wasting the rest of the outstanding meal. I finished off the experience with an Italian espresso and a piece of praline chocolate, the perfect ending to an impeccable meal. Only thing left to do is return and try the desserts. 

If I can recommend one non-French restaurant in Paris, this is it. 

Les Cailloux 
58 rue des Cinq Diamants 
75013 Paris 
 Tél. 01 45 80 15 08 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            01 45 80 15 08      end_of_the_skype_highlighting


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