June 29, 2011
When a table is consistently booked out at least three months in advance, it probably doesn’t need any extra press. However, I’m so tickled by Tete dans les Olives that I can’t help but tell all. After having made a reservation earlier this year I was left wondering if this elusive eating experience could really live up to the hype it’s received over the past year or so. But, as soon as I arrived at the charming doorway, I knew I was in for a treat.
So, just what’s so special about this address? By day, it’s a tiny epicerie whose owner, Cédric Casanova, works with small producers in Italy to stock his shelves with the best of artisanal products. You’ll find pungent cheese, sundried tomatoes, an array of pasta, fragrant herbs, and plenty of other seasonal goodies. But, as the name implies, the biggest draw is the olive oil. Pristine silver vats of the stuff fill the shelves of his delightful shop, each baring the name of both the type of olive and the owner of the parcel of land where it was grown. Word is that some of Paris’ best-known chefs pop in to sample and shop. But the real fun starts when the store closes and a tiny table for five is set for receiving.
Arriving guests are welcomed into the minuscule space by the hospitable staff – for our visit, it was Marco. While waiting for the rest of our party, this friendly Sicilian (who is also a student of philosophy) talked about the products, their origins and the concepts behind the store and its Table d’Hôte. He uncapped one of the olive oil jugs to offer a whiff of the fragrant goodness inside and filled the tiny table with samples of olives, oil, tapenade, sundried tomatoes and bread. We squeezed around the rustic table, backs nearly pressed against the overflowing shelves and started the meal while Marco popped open a bottle of champagne we had brought. In fact, we had brought a variety of wines to match up with courses, as this is strictly a BYOB operation.
As we nearly licked the bowls of oil clean, a wooden board arrived on the table with the vegetable course: mushrooms filled with wild oregano, mint stuffed carrots topped with freshly grated cheese and juicy oranges topped with salty anchovies. The quality of the ingredients shines through in the final product as these relatively simply prepared bites pop with fresh flavor. With no individual plates set out, we helped our selves with fingers and forks, which only added to the companionable aspect in these close quarters.
Though the normal set menu is four courses, we indulgently opted for one of the three supplements on offer and took the assorted seafood plate. We enjoyed two types of tuna and anchovies as we watched our host prepare the main pasta dish. I can’t speak for the other ladies, but I may have developed a full-blown food crush on the adorable Marco by this time. With true Italian style, he has his work down to an art form as he seamlessly and simultaneously cooks, chats, clears and uncorks – and even manages to convivially share in a bit of wine with us at our invitation.
Our lips still salty from the seafood platter, big bowls of perfectly cooked pasta arrived flecked with more tuna and fresh herbs. Everything was prepared at the head of our tiny table with minimal equipment. By this time it was raining outside and curious passersby stopped to peer through the window from the dark, wet night into our tiny festive private party. For the final course (although I secretly wanted to indulge in the cheese plate) we moved straight to sweets: fresh bread topped with honey and biscotti-like treats.
And, just as our evening seemed to be drawing to a close, we were in for more. Diners get the opportunity to shop after dinner. No hard sell is needed, as the ingredients have already sold themselves over multiple courses and guests will be hard pressed to leave empty handed. Prices are very reasonable for goods of this quality and Marco even washed out our empty wine bottles for those of us who wanted to buy oil direct from the barrel without paying for the bottling cost. Of course, you don’t need to wait months for a dinner reservation to indulge in the oils; you can always make a daytime stop into the shop. But be warned: Marco told us that there was an unusually small yield this year, so stock may be gone by the fall. So if you’re tempted to buy one of the several oils, act sooner rather than later.
When our delightfully unctuous meal drew to a close, we settled up a bill of 33 Euros each (not including our post-meal purchases). We left satiated with tasty artisanal treats, warm with wine and laden with litters of oil. This was an evening not only worth the wait, but one I was reluctant to share at first after seeing the reservations wait time grow steadily over the past year. But, now that I’ve secured a space for October, I’m happy to join in the chorus singing their praises. And just between us, I hear they’re looking at opening a second tiny table on the same street soon. My advice: keep your ears open and book as soon as they do.
Price: 150 Euros for up to 5 people (4 course meal); additional supplemental courses at 15 Euros. 6th person welcome for 30 Euro fee.
La Tête Dans Les Olives
2, rue St. Marthe, 75010
+33 (0)220.127.116.11.34 / +33 (0)18.104.22.168.81
Métro: Belleville, Goncourt, Colonel Fabien
- Kim from I Heart Paris also writes up her experience at La Tete dans les Olives
- For more Paris foodie news, check out Paris by Mouth’s recent update
- For more from Forrest Collins, check out her fab blog, 52 Martinis
Written by Forest Collins
Forest Collins chronicles her search for the finest cocktails in Paris on her blog, 52 Martinis. Every Wednesday, she tries a new place. She starts with a martini for a standard of comparison and then usually orders a second. Got a bar you think makes great drinks? Let her know, she'd love to try it!
Website: 52 Martinis