Metro Station: Censier-Daubenton (Line 7)
Type of cuisine: Italian
Days & hours of operation: Tues to Sat noon – 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard
A brown awning shelters six tables set out on the sidewalk terrace of Nonna Inès, a small restaurant serving traditional Italian food near rue Mouffetard. The watermelon-colored façade is cheery and upon entering, one steps into a small dining room whose walls are decorated in an antique-yellow wash. A small bar standing in the corner and photographs of family members on the walls impart an intimate feeling to this place.
The waiter expresses himself tersely, which can be off-putting for some, but during the meal we found him to be helpful when we asked questions about the wine and the food.
As an apéritif we each ordered Prosecco, a sparkling white wine from Italy. I requested that mine by flavored with violet and my partner requested peach for a variation on the traditional Bellini cocktail that she so fondly remembers from visits to Rome.
The Antipasti del nonno (which translates as “Grandfather’s appetizer”) looked tempting, and I ordered it as a starter. It was a generously-portioned dish: two kinds of thinly-sliced ham (Parma and coppa) arranged to look like a rose resting on a bed of marinated eggplant and artichoke hearts along with a slice of Taleggio cheese. The dish was more filling than a simple appetizer, and when I finished I wondered if I would have room for the main course!
My partner selected the Fantasia della Nonna Inès. The waiter brought a squat glass containing warm eggplant layered with tomato, mascarpone cheese and Parmesan, all topped with a spray of fresh arugula. The dish was unctuous and quite tasty, without being overly filling.
I ordered the fish of the day for the main course: Dos de cabillaud rôti au speck, poëlée de poivrons et poireaux à l’huile d’olive. This was yet another copious dish! Three large, roasted chunks of cod formed a tripod on a bed of stewed tomatoes, green bell peppers, and leeks. The top of the tripod held an arrangement of thinly-sliced speck, a salt-cured ham from Italy. The fish was flaky, succulent, and tender, and the stewed vegetables were delicious. I could not finish the speck, as it was too salty for me.
My partner was pleased with her Osso buco mijoté aux cèpes, riz sauté au Parmesan. This dish had everything one could want in an Italian meal: a large portion of veal with its bone rested on a bed of medium-grain rice that had been nicely perfumed with Parmesan. Thinly-sliced cèpe mushrooms topped the veal, which was perfectly tender and flavorful. The entire presentation rested in a shallow bowl that contained delicious brown gravy.
The choice of the wine accompaniment was made difficult because the restaurant’s selection of half-bottles of wine is severely limited. Consequently, we settled on red and white wines by the glass. Both were called Anghelia Magnum 2010, and both were produced by Cantina Santadi in Sardinia. I found the white wine to be full bodied with a note of resin. It was too powerful for the fish, but it had an interesting flavor nonetheless. My partner’s red was richly complex, with notes of very ripe red fruits.
Fresh, thin-sliced bread with generous alveoli was served alongside in a basket.
For dessert, we went Italian all the way! I ordered a Cantucci toscans et Vin Santo, a serving of sweet, almond-flavored, dry biscuits that one dips into the accompanying dessert wine. A wonderful way to end the meal! My partner ordered the Tiramisù du moment, which happened to be a generous portion of mascarpone cheese layered with a biscuit, chopped pear, and crumbled Speculoos, all dusted with cocoa. Superb!
I finished the meal with an Italian espresso, a tiny cup of strong coffee displaying a magnificent crema, and my partner with a glass of Amaretto di Saronno.
The bill for two, including two apéritifs, two starters, two main courses, two desserts, two glasses of wine, one espresso, and one digestif, came to 97.10€. Not a bad price for a moment spent in Italy!
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.