Residing near the Arc de Triomphe, just inside the 16th district, has much to recommend it, even if it is a bit far from the historic city center that I consider the most attractive part of Paris. One of its greatest rewards is an impressive selection of superb places to dine. That includes a wealth of choice from inventive practitioners of modern French cuisine and some superb interpreters of my weakness, Italian cuisine.
Right at the top in the modern French category is Etc. at 2, rue Lapérouse, and Passiflore at 33, rue de Longchamp. The décor at the former is abstractly zen, a foil to chef Bernard Pinaud’s immense talent in interpreting traditional French cuisine with oriental overtones that warm your soul. Roland Dumont does no less in the warmer ambiance of Passiflore, where he astonishes you with his flavor combinations and reductions that leave you wishing your meal would never end.
On a slightly less exalted plane, don’t hesitate to stop a stone’s throw away, just over the edge into the 17th, at Thierry Marchal’s Le Pré Carré at 3, avenue Carnot, where roasts take pride of place and I had the good fortune to taste one of the most succulent veal chops I can recall.
In the transalpine sector, Michel Ranvier commands the ever faithful Conti, at 72, rue Lauriston, with its Venetian décor and authentic Italian cuisine. Around the corner at 23, rue Paul Valéry you will find more zen atmosphere at Nicolas Le Drogou’s versatile and inventive Le Vinci. Both establishments avoid the ubiquitous sin of Italian restaurants in France: Gallicizing the Italian approach to cuisine.
Most Italian chefs keep the cooking to a minimum and let superb ingredients speak for themselves. The French approach is free with butter and cream, and not really happy until the ingredients have been ‘interpreted’ though the chef’s talent. Both approaches have merit, but it is a shame to lose the character of each by mixing them.