La Felicità opened this fall near the Grande Bibliothèque. It was meant to stay open all night but never did, it closes at 10.30 pm or 11 depending on the days and does not serve dinners on Mondays and Tuesday. As a member of the Big Mamma group started by Tigrane Seydoux and Victor Lugger, it can seat 1 000 guests in different areas where Italian specialties are served. From the Ceviche bar (excellent) to the Pizzeria Napolitana, the Trattoria to the Hamburgheria, you can wander around and sit wherever it pleases you. It has a large terrace and a funky decor. And you get to mingle with all the start uppers of Station F. The drawback is that it is located Far East of Paris but if you go to visit the wonderful shows at Grande Bibliothèque it is an ideal stop for lunch.
The pizza with burrata is to die for and in the Trattoria, you can have a plate of parma ham for 8 €, lasagna or ravioli for 12€. The cocktail bar is beautifully designed with hundreds of bottles, and ice creams are served in the centre. This is a beautiful world, managed by the softwares of Easilys, a five year old company based near Nantes, which specializes in cost cuttings for restaurants and hotels of the new generation. And the young men have just opened their first restaurant in London, Gloria, on Great Eastern Street.
Eataly, has just opened in the Marais under the wing of Galeries Lafayette. After New York, four other restaurants in the US, and eleven more countries, the chain of good Italian eating settles in Paris near the BHV. Oscar Farinetti, the founder, who was born in Alba, started his first shop in Torino in 2007.
I went one evening to check the lines. The courtyard was empty on a warm evening. And I was told, by a charming bouncer, it would be an hour before I could get in. When I asked “why is it empty inside and you make us wait on the street?”, he apologized that he had no idea.
So I went back for lunch at noon (which is early for Paris) and was happy to walk in and visit the grocery store and vegetable stand quietly. Nothing really caught my eye except for the beautiful radicchio salad and zucchini flowers, ready to be fried.
It took me a little time to find my way around and I kept being sent to another floor. Upstairs is where you can find pizza and pasta but don’t just sit at an empty table, go and queue. Eataly has the feel of an airport, you queue all the time and many charming girls and boys keep directing you. Happily, I only waited about five minutes and I asked to be seated at the bar by the kitchen, so I could observe the all Italian cooks prepare lunch.
The pasta bar is pretty simple. The spaghettis are already cooked and kept warm, then mixed in a pan with tomato sauce, ragù or mushrooms. I chose the ravioli ricotta e spinaci al burro e salvia, which were undercooked and there was neither butter no sage. The young chef was charming so it made up for the mediocre dish and with a lot of parmigiano, it went down quite well. Other pastas were dipped into hot water for a short while then again mixed in a pan by another chef. I could see my pate wander to the other end of the kitchen, what under a lamp for the waiter to find it and associate it with me. It took about four minutes between the time it was cooked (in front of my eyes) and finally brought to me.
I also wanted to taste the pizza and picked as advised, the Marinara with tomato, and that was uneatable. To make sure, I was not being biast, I offered my neighbors a piece of pizza because they could not decide which one to choose. And they thanked me warmly and chose the pasta. The tomato reminded me of this book on the Chinese mafiosi dealing with tomato sauce imported to Naples from Southern China as did the dirty can in the grocery store which was rusted.
The crust was ok but dry and the bred served in paperbags was stale. The atmosphere is very busy, with no chic, very airport like (I repeat myself). The decor is mostly white with a very pretty atrium. By the time I left around 1 pm, the place was crowded and noisy. There was complete lack of style except for the pretty shaped marble tables.
The grocery store did not feature anything incredible except maybe for the cheeses and anchovy paste. Next time I am in the area, I will try the fancy restaurant downstairs, l’Osteria del vino.
So the conclusion is that La Felicità has excellent food, a great decor and space, but is located really out of the way. Eataly has the best location in town but has to improve the atmosphere and the food… Prices are very similar in both places.
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