It usually goes like this – Saturday mid-day, after a busy morning of running errands, shopping at the farmer’s market and roaming about in a park with Magnus, we realize that it is almost lunchtime, and we have to make a quick decision.
Do we go home and play it safe, do we go to our habitual haunts for noodles or sushi, or do we risk going to a new place with a chance of encountering greatness but with a fair chance of all of it turning very badly – slow service, loud restaurant, snobby waiters, cranky child, bad food.
This time, we opted to take a leap of faith and return to a place I used to go pre-child – a small Italian bistro near Les Halles. It had been years, and I was not sure how it would be going back with Magnus – would it be child-friendly? Would they serve us without a delay of an hour? Would the people be nice to us with a child?
To my pleasant surprise, La Bocca was even better than I had remembered it – the food was better, the wine was better, and what more, the people were even nicer than they had ever been when I used to go with my single friends.
We ran in the restaurant anxious and eager, as parents like me get right before mealtime, and as soon as we were seated, immediately ordered Magnus’ ziti with pomodoro. It came within 5 minutes with a smile and an apple juice, hot and perfectly al dente. Magnus started to eat, and we relaxed, and as we got our first glass of wine and our orders of octopus salad, fried mozzarella and calamari came, we became giddy, talking about how we should try new places more often and ordered more food. The people sitting next to us watched in astonishment as more and more food came, and before we knew it, we were talking to everyone sitting around us – which is something that happens all too rarely in Paris. Our tender angloletti, large tortolinis stuffed with veal and lamb, pasta with plump tight clams, crunchy grilled vegetables and fresh bread came in successions – all of it delicious, all of it authentically Italian.
As we finished off with a cone-shaped and wobbling panna cotta drizzled with berry coulis, the manager of the place proudly showed us his gold expresso machine that looked like a glistening submarine perched atop of the bar – which we missed on arrival since we were so hungry. He explained that it was an ancient coffee maker from the turn of the century, and he happily showed us the different ways it can be manipulated it to make the best coffees in town. Those who were left in the bistro at the late lunch hour lingered discussing the state of coffees, world eating and this remarkable Italian bistro in the middle of the pedestrian street in Les Halles, and how it has ‘aged’ so well – always good and authentic.
Magnus played with his toy cars while we sipped our coffees, and as we left, I was happy to know that there was a place from my single life that could fit so nicely with my new life – with hungry child, splattered sauce and the occasional toy on the table and all. For once, we were not rushed, not hushed, and we came out of our lunch with new friends – and a renewed sense of hope for good lunches to come.
A good start for 2013.
La Bocca Restaurant
59 Rue Montmatre