I admit that it has taken me a while to come around to the talents of Chef Giovanni Passerini, but a recent meal at his namesake restaurant Passerini has me a bonafide convert.
The native Roman opened his first restaurant Rino back in 2010 after passing through the kitchens of Alain Passard (Arpege), Peter Nilsson (La Gazzetta) and Iñaki Aizpatarte (Le Chateaubriand). To an adoring Parisian crowd he was able to showcase his own modern style of cucina povera, but for me, in those early days, something didn’t click and my initial experience of Passerini’s vision left me uninspired. In 2014 he sold Rino, to go on to open a new restaurant and adjacent pasta shop (Passerini Pastificio) two years later in 2016 with his partner Justine. The new space, much bigger and brighter than the shoebox Rino, embraces a more sophisticated sense of modern Italian conviviality, offering shared dishes as well as an à la carte menu.
The memory of a recent lunch there lingered in my mind for days afterwards, his dishes a beautiful mixture of hearty servings, delicate flavors, crunch, acid and, above all, that promised sense of conviviality that is at the heart of any good Italian meal. The Panais-Pané proved much more interesting on the plate than on the menu and we delighted in the small nuggets of creamy parsnip deep-fried in bread crumbs and served with a spicy mayonnaise, sautéed Roman chicory, and united with a small dab of gel de citron (almost like a lemon purée). The black radish with oyster sauce, smoked sardines, sorrel and endive was refreshing and harmonious, and a very original take on a light, modern appetizer.
His pasta is the best example of modern cucina povera that I can think off, with all the hallmarks of comforting rustic Italian cooking, elevated to the extraordinary with thoughtful garnishes and exquisite quality produce. The ravioli, made next door in the pastificio, were filled with a dreamy concoction of potimarron (a dense, full-flavored squash), citrusy notes of orange and an earthy hit of tonka bean. The tonnarelli, a robust dried pasta of square spaghetti strands, was tossed in a hearty lamb ragout, with strips of fresh mint and a generous showering of grated fior sardo, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia.
My heart sang when the waiter brought the dessert of the last-of season fresh figs, teamed up with crunchy, caramelized pecans and a ginger and milk sorbet, the perfect end to a faultless meal.
Doggy bags were requested due to the large portion sizes of the pasta, so go hungry. But make sure you go, as this is surely the best Italian meal you will find in Paris.
PASSERINI | Italian | 65 rue Traversière | Paris 12 | +33 1 43 42 27 56 | Métro: Ledru Rollin | Open Tuesday–Saturday dinner. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday lunch | firstname.lastname@example.org | 24-48€ weekday menus (2-4 courses), 40-65€ à la carte at dinner | Reservations essential.