Wednesday, October 5, 2011


As a poor intern in the expensive city of Paris, most of my meals have consisted of cheap pizza, pasta with hot sauce, or something homemade if I'm feeling fancy. But since I am in a city that has some of the best food in the world and I am a person who not only loves food but loves it so much that they are willing to dedicate their whole lives to it, I figured that going out to dinner once a month was a good compromise between my wallet and my belly. 

The other night my regular crew of four (Elze, Christy, Mr. Johnson and myself) went to Sassotondo, an italian restaurant around the corner. On your way into the restaurant you pass a window through which you can see the kitchen and the staff and three boxes of freshly hand-made, steaming pasta. As with most things in Paris it is a tiny little building and we were taken into the back room to sit. But unlike most things in Paris this place was italian. Very italian. The host was italian, the bus boy was italian, the waiter was italian. And as if we already didn't feel like we had taken two steps out of france and two into an alternate italian reality, they all wanted us to speak english, not french. It was wonderful. 

We looked at the wine menu and ordered a white wine that jumped out at us. It jumped out at us because at 28€ it was the cheapest bottle on the menu. Some of the wines went up to over 90€. So much for looking out for my wallet. When the waiter poured the bottle of Pecorino into my glass (it's a dry white wine from the Abruzzo region, not just a cheese) I don't think I was expecting anything but wow was it good. It was so clean, crisp, and quenching. I don't know if I've ever wanted to drink a glass of wine as much before in my life. I felt like a little kid with a glass of chocolate milk and I really just wanted to down the whole thing. But since I pretend that I'm a lady sometimes, I resisted. Plus I didn't have a bendy straw with me. We all oohed and ahed over it and said that even if we were all on budgets we would have to order another bottle. There was four of us after all, and one would only give us a glass a piece. It just wasn't possible. 

After gazing at the menu and trying to figure out what a few things were because the menu was in french and italian and our vocabulary in both languages was very limited, we finally decided on what we should order. Elze and I were going to both get the veal since there was a two person limit. There was an asterisk next to it and at the bottom of the menu it said that for a substitution of white truffle it would cost 25€ instead of 23€. Sounded worth it to us! So we went with that while Christy and Mr. Johnson both ordered some pasta. 

The calamari came and it looked incredible. This wasn't your fried, previously frozen, strips you find at cheap bars or cafes, this was non-fried, non breaded whole chunks of squid on top of a bed of warm hummus (or something that looked and tasted like hummus) and drizzled with olive oil. It was absolutely marvelous. The calamari was so soft it almost melted in my mouth. It was fresh and light and the hummus, or whatever it was, complemented it nicely. 

We continued to drink our wine and when the waiter came with our main course we ordered bottle number two. The waiter put our veal in front of us before quickly returning with a white truffle in one hand and a microplane in the other. He vigorously shaved delicious morsel after delicious morsel of white truffle ontop of Elze's succulent veal and then did the same with mine. I was practically drooling in excitement. We dug into our meals and were all quite happy with what we had. We shared our veal with Mr. Johnson and Christy and they shared their pasta with us. Everything had the same fresh, light, clean taste as the calamari. 

As we were on our last glasses of wine the waiter came and brought us the dessert menu. Christy and Elze went out into the atrium for a quick cigarette while Mr. Johnson and I looked things over. I decided on the semifreddo because it's something I absolutely love, but when the waiter recommended it to the girls and they and Mr. Johnson decided they were all going to have it, I figured I would try something else, something different and made a last minute decision to get the Zuppa Inglese. Oh, how silly I was. 

Why would I not listen to the waiter and get what he recommended? What did it matter that we were all getting the same thing, it sounded delicious. There was a creme anglaise on top of it. Why was I so stupid to say no to that? So when the waiter brought out three plates of tantalizingly yummy looking volcanoes of cafe semifreddo oozing with a creamy creme anglais I couldn't help but think I had made a bad decision. And then I knew I had made a bad decision when the waiter came out with a gigantic class dish of Zuppa Inglese and scooped me a serving. It was layers of cake and mousse and topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The cake was dyed red. The mousse was reminiscent of Jell-O pudding. I was expecting something a bit more refined than this. And to make matters worse it was almost tasteless. I've had oreo pudding pies topped with Cool Whip that were more exciting than this. What the hell?! 

Luckily there was enough semifreddo to go around and I was able to enjoy some of the frozen coffee deliciousness while the last bites of my Zuppa Inglese sat neglected on the side. Perhaps I now would finally learn my lesson and go with my own instincts on dessert. 

The wine glasses were empty and we had flagged the waiter down and asked him for our bill. It came in a cute little herb jar and we pulled the check out to see the damage. And then it hit us. Being in France has caused more harm to my english than good to my french and so when I saw "Supplement" on the menu I read it as "Substitution." The 25€ was not instead of the 23€, it was on top of the 23€. Elze and I could have both ordered that night's menu for the price we each paid for our own dinners. The waiter hadn't been generous with the heaps of white truffle, he had been stingy. 25€ for a damn fungus?! I could buy another bottle of wine for that much! 

C'est la vie. The damage was done. We all whipped out our cards and paid for our meals. I think we were all happy for what we'd had and it wasn't too expensive if you didn't count on the truffle that my dumb-ass had ordered. I now know what my mother meant all those years when she said "use your brain." It meant that sometimes you have to stop and think and put the pieces together before making a decision. If I had thought about the sophisticated scene of the restaurant, the price of the wine and the price of the meal I would've figured out that an extra 2€ for something coveted as one of the best foods in the world couldn't be right. But like I said, the damage was done and I was overall happy with my meal. While this was by no means the best meal I have had in my life, the menu was inspired, the pasta was fresh, the veal was cooked perfectly and they had kept things simple. But next time I think I'll skip the truffles and go straight for a third bottle of that delicious wine. 


  1. Restaurant review is a stroke a genius! Sounds super yummy. Maybe we can when we visit.

  2. We'll hopefully before you come I'll try some other places too!