This small gastronomic Italian restaurant is in a prime client-trapping position for the discerning tourist, well-off local or literary-minded wanderer. It sits in a quaint street close to the famous Place Jean-Paul Sartre-Simone de Beauvoir, with its church, and the literary temples of Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. The many boutiques and restaurants of the Rue du Dragon lend it that convivial feel, characteristic of the 6th arrondissement of Paris. This is the haunt of the older (and wealthier) generations – far from the crammed loudness of the bars of Rue Princesse.
When my partner and I saw a candle-lit table for two available on its make-shift terrace (the pavement), we bagged it immediately, thinking what a rare, authentic place La Locanda looked.
I entered the restaurant to alert a waiter to our arrival, and met with the simple, rustic, and charming interior of an eighteenth-century building with stone walls, oak beams, a high ceiling and mezzanine. A table was set in the centre of the room with cute bottles of olive oil and bowls of various antipasti – gloriously coloured glistening vegetables…
A theatrical waiter welcomed me enthusiastically and ushered me back outside with flirtatious encouragement (“of course, of course, mia bella!”) His face fell slightly as he greeted my partner, but he rescued it. “I will get you some menus”, he said through suddenly taught lips, and scuttled off.
I will add here that my partner, who is of Moroccan heritage, was very handsome and well-dressed that evening.
The menu offered a delectable choice of Italian specialities. I went for the Linguine Alle Vongole, the speciality of Venice, with clams and white wine sauce. My partner went for the Rigatoni alla Checca, with a more basic tomato, garlic and basil sauce.
“Can you recommend a good wine to go with the meal, please?” asked my partner, knowing little about wine but wanting to order something special. Our waiter smiled and pointed at the cheapest wine on the list, without a hesitation.
We waited almost an hour for our meal, but when it arrived, there was no doubting the freshness of the products. My clams were like a breath of sea air. I read later on the restaurant’s website that all their shell-fish is delivered fresh every day. Incidentally, their buffalo mozzarella and truffles are also flown in weekly from Naples.
My dish was correct, taste and portion-wise, and its presentation was simple and pleasing, with fresh parsley scattered over the open mouths of the clams. My partner’s plate was less generously served, though it was quite delicious, if you really like garlic.
At the end of the meal (we decided to have our dessert elsewhere) our dear old waiter purposefully presented me with the bill. Now, I don’t know about where you live, but in Paris, you present the bill to Monsieur. Always. Especially when the couple are dressed up and clearly on a date.
I read later that there is a table VIP inside, reserved for any celebrities that might stop by. I concluded that although the place was tastefully decorated, and thoroughly quaint and rustic; although our meal was of high quality, the spirit of La Locanda is not what it seems to strive to emanate. What it emanates is rather what is unfortunately the well-known phenomenon of Parisian stuffiness, or snobisme.