67, rue de Charenton, in the 12th Arrondissement. 09 53 52 32 90.
Open Mon–Fri, noon–10 p.m.; closed on weekends.
The neighborhood east of Place de la Bastille has its share of good Paris restaurants, and a fair amount of them are clustered around the Marché d’Aligre, a rich source of fresh produce and fine bread, meat and cheese. Last summer, a new wine bar opened on the rue de Charenton, specializing in Piedmont wines and delicacies.
Named after a variety of Italian grapes, Nebbiolo has a dining room that contains a single table set for eight, decorated with a bouquet of fresh flowers, and an olive tree growing on a shelf next to dozens of wine bottles. Federico, the owner, grins behind a marble counter. Nebbiolo’s elegance is tinted with the warm feeling of home, and its family of regular customers is always eager to welcome newcomers with a cheerful clink of glasses.
You may choose to sit at the table and speak to your neighbor who is appreciating a fluffy burrata on a vivid beet coulis. Or pick one of the tables on the sidewalk for a colorful lunch break on a sunny day. If you stay at the counter, Federico will have you taste as many wines as it takes for you to settle on a first glass. To help you, he’ll illustrate his wine with gusto, deciphering the nose, color and taste of each bottle. His dedication to his customers inspires him to pour himself a glass of the wine you have chosen in order to discuss its flavors and subtleties.
As we were having a Barbera d’Asti, he gave us a few cubes of polenta topped with a dash of olive oil, sprinkled with Guérande salt and freshly ground pepper. The plainness of corn was an excellent base for tasting the flavorful oil, and the polenta’s soft texture contrasted nicely with a sip of wine.
With a second glass, a Dolcetto d’Acqui this time, we ordered a small plate of cheese, and as the best match for the flavors in what we were drinking (berry, cherry, maybe even a hint of freshly cut hay, as he put it), Federico recommended Robiola. Made with varying proportions of cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, it crumbles like Parmesan on the plate but melts delicately in the mouth. Its powerful, salty intensity was tamed with a grape-must jam made by Federico himself.
More than a good wine, you will meet a generous, affable host who knows and loves his products, and who is willing to take you on a grand trip of his region through your taste buds. Son and grandson of grape growers, Federico has been immersed in Piedmontese wine culture since his childhood. “Behind each bottle, there is a man,” he proclaims, his eyes glowing as he describes the gracefulness of one wine or the body of another. Very talkative in French as well as in English, he peppers his speech with picturesque Italian expressions. “In the end”—or “In fine,” as he says in Italian—“the most important thing is that you like what you are drinking and find pleasure in this moment.” Truly delightful.
In a nutshell: carefully selected wines and delicacies from northern Italy, served with love by the owner himself.
Price check: large plate of meats or cheeses, €15; small, €8; glass of wine, €6; main course, around €15.
If you like the sound of Nebbiolo, you’ll also like le Baron Rouge, a few blocks away. Read the review.
Le Baron Rouge
1, rue Théophile Roussel, in the 12th Arrondissement.
Tues–Thurs, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri–Sat, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.