Le Cherche Midi
22, rue du Cherche Midi, in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 45 48 27 44.
Open daily, noon–3 p.m. and 8 p.m.–11:45 p.m.
It is not unusual for a tripist to ask me, “Where do real Parisians eat?” While we do eat at the well-known French foodie joints, a favorite with the locals is world cuisine, which visitors often avoid. Because we eat plenty of French food at home (where we just call it food), it’s always a treat to go out and try something other than the regular offerings. While the French love a variety of international cuisine, they have a soft spot for the Italian kitchen, which is why there are lots of Paris restaurants serving delicacies from Italy. Yet I always have to make reservations when the family wants to dine at le Cherche Midi.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, and holidays, too, this tiny postcard of a restaurant has been overflowing with locals for decades, everyone eager to savor the homemade pasta and other Italian delicacies. The facade is framed by four tables placed on the sidewalk, forming a terrace that is open even on rainy days, when plastic walls are dropped to keep diners dry, with heat lamps to keep them (and their food) warm.
Behind the wood-framed glass door, a bustling, friendly staff ushers you in, past the zinc bar that is laden with house-made antipasti and specially imported deli meats. Modern Italian art hangs above the red leather booths that line the walls. Wooden chairs complete the illusion of having stepped off the streets of Paris and into a traditional Italian trattoria.
The restaurant has a small menu with a selection of starters, including truffles laced with mortadella and an ever-changing antipasto plate. The soups are house-made and tasty. For the main dish, there are invariably between five and six pasta dishes, each featuring seasonal ingredients. On the list, there are often raviolis and usually something with seafood in a light wine sauce that I find myself sopping up with the original selection of breads, which includes the only decent focaccia I have had in any of the Paris restaurants I frequent.
Avoiding pasta these days? You’ll find a grilled fish on the menu, as well as a few carnivorous options for the meat lovers in the crowd. And then comes dessert. House-made tiramisu, panna cotta and, in the spring, a bowl of fresh wild strawberries, absolutely perfect as you sip the last drops of Prosecco from your glass. The coffee is served Italian style as well.
In a nutshell, this is a great local joint with not-so-local food.
Price check: 40–50 euros for a three-course meal.
If you like the sound of le Cherche Midi, you might also enjoy Al Taglio. Read the review.
2 bis, rue Neuve Popincourt, in the 11th Arrondissement. 01 43 38 12 00.
27, rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd. 09 50 48 84 06.