Balls, balls, balls. When the mercury drops in Paris and we’re seeking a spot of comfort food — we go back to ‘basics’ via the superb arancinis served up by talented Sardinian chef Simone Tondo at this stylish (Michelin-starred) nook, tucked into the Passage des Panoramas.
Spiced with saffron and revealing a creamy, mozzarella-filled interior that contrasts with crisp, golden breadcrumbs on the outside — these heavenly little spheres of crunchy rice and cheesy goodness are a signature of this cosy little restaurant — a stone’s throw away from the Grands Boulevards in the 2eme.
Headed up by the young Tondo — who, after several years as the head of Roseval (now closed) in the 20th arrondissement, took over this bistro and turned it into an old-fashioned osteria — the daily specials board here offers a choice of Italian dishes made from a skilful blend of seasonal produce, simplicity and subtlety.
A disciple of Swedish star chef Petter Nilsson (his former mentor at Gazzetta), Tondo arrived in Paris in the winter of 2009, after studying at the hotel school in Alghero, Sardinia and quickly seduced critics, from the New York Times to the Fooding Guide, with his unassuming cuisine and daring creations while he was at Roseval — and now, with Racines, he’s gone back to his rustic roots, giving us a place which represents the antithesis of over-complicated and convoluted cooking.
Ever heard of the term “Bistrattoria” ? Well now you have. This place was named best “Bistrattoria” in the 2019 Le Fooding Guide.
Not surprisingly, it’s also listed on the Paris Michelin Guide and — when the famous Michelin guide unveiled its list of the winners for 2019 — it earned itself a star for its mix of recipes from Sardinia, Italy and Paris, and its selection of dynamic plates which are created every day and written on the slate menu for customers — all made with super fresh ingredients and ranging from succulent last-minute additions, to classic, hearty fare such as pasta with beef ragout, veal chop with Milanese, as well as delicious desserts.
Again — you really can’t go past what are, hands-down, some of the best luxury rice balls you may ever try in your life (except if you have the luck to travel to Sardinia or Sicily — of course!) — but there are plenty of other winter-perfect gems to try at this Parisian bistro meets Italian trattoria (think: tagliatelle with beef, capers and parmesan & veal chop from Lozère alla milanese).
The resto itself is both small (it only has seating for about 20) and unassuming — tucked into a tiny little space in the middle of the covered in-door/outdoor tunnel of Passage des Panoramas (a covered gallery full of restaurants for those who haven’t been) which used to be a former wine merchant — recognisable by its weathered “Marchand de Vins” sign out front, humble wooden chairs and patina tables, vintage cement tiles on the floor, and myriad wine bottles stacked and lined up all over the walls.
No fuss on the furnishings here, for sure — but it’s fancy enough to be serving up stellar cuisine, lauded by the best in the business. Yes please.
Perfect for: A warm winter meal, when you want some Italian which is a cut above.
What to order: Arancini balls. Creamy, delicious — delightful. And a pasta dish. And some wine. A bottle. Pourquoi pas? Baby — it’s cold outside.
Address: 8 Passage des Panoramas, 75002 Paris (Google Maps)
Trading hours: Monday — Sunday 12.15–2PM // 7:30–10PM