We poured flour onto the wooden counter and formed a well in the center. We cracked three eggs into the middle of the well and scrambled the eggs with a fork. We then kneaded the flour and eggs for 10 minutes into a smooth dough, and wrapped the ball of dough in plastic wrap to rest for 30 minutes. It occurred to me that this was the perfect time to ask Francesco, a true Italian, why Italian’s refer to this pasta making process as “like making love to a woman”? He looked at me, somewhat surprised, and said in his deep Italian accented English “well, I think it’s obvious.”
Francesco’s Italian eatery, Olio Pane Vino, has been open for a few years now. In the dozens of times we have eaten there, the daily chalkboard menu has listed the same pasta dish only three or four times. “Did you learn to cook from your grandmother?” I asked him once. “No, I left my home in Sicily when I was very young”, he recalled. “I was broke and had to learn to cook whatever I could afford, whatever I could find.” Now Francesco spends his time finding and importing to France great Italian products. Recently I had an Amatriciana type sauce made with a spicy sausage from Sicily. “The guy makes it in Sicily then drives around Italy in his tiny van selling it.” “I convinced him to come to Paris so I could buy some.” The sauce was delicious, smokey and spicy with hints of paprika.
Olio Pane Vino is open primarily for lunch, serving at night only Thursday and Friday when the menu expands to include several additional offerings. During the busy lunch hours, the communal tables are filled with a mix of suits from nearby businesses and Banque de France and iPhone toting hipsters. Recently the advertising agency for Apple contacted Francesco about using his restaurant for the image that would appear on the iPhone in print, television and billboards across France. “No thank you” replied Francesco to the advertising agency, but when they said “Apple has insisted it be shot here” he concented. Now his restaurant can be seen on the backs of magazines, on TV and all over the sides of highways of France.
My perfect lunch at OPV includes a glass of Prosecco and starts with the “crostini tuscano” a trio of toasted baguette slices smeared with a chicken liver mousse and topped with sun dried tomatoes. This is followed by one of the daily pastas, a couple days ago I had ricotta filled ravioli with basil tomato sauce. Then for dessert the “affogato”, scoops of imported gelato from Bologna topped with coffee beans and served with a shot of hot espresso. The food here is clean, simple, delicious and inexpensive. In a city filled with white tablecloths and pre-fixe menus, I think what’s obvious, is why we return so often.
Sugo al Pomodoro
2 large carrots (chopped)
2 celery branches (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and cut in half)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
28 oz can of good Italian San Marzano canned peeled tomatoes
1 handful of basil (roughly chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
Parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to garnish
1. Over medium heat cook the carrots, celery and onions in olive oil. After 5 minutes add the garlic and stir. Add the can of peeled tomatoes, the sugar and a pinch of salt and a ground black pepper. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Set a timer to 30 minutes and open a bottle of wine. 30 minutes later add the chopped basil, stir and turn off the heat.
3. Blanche your pasta leaving it al dente. Add the pasta to a saute pan and toss liberally with the sugo. Serve in pasta bowls, garnish with parsley and a bowl of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Enjoy.
Olio Pane Vino
44 Rue Coquillière – Paris – France – 75002