An Italian Maestro in Paris: Officina Schenatti
Executive chef Ivan Schenatti opened his eponymous restaurant located just a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Cathedral in October 2012. Previously, for nearly ten years he was the managing chef at the Emporio Armani Caffé in Paris, the chic Italian restaurant in the Paris Latin Quarter created by the famous Giorgio Armani. Schenatti hails from Chiesa in Valmalenco, a town in northern Italy, near the Swiss border. For his restaurant’s name, the Italian word officina is often translated workshop, as in a car mechanic’s garage or shop, mirroring Schenatti’s avid interest in Harley-Davidson motorcycles. To get a glimpse of the personality of the chef, visit the restaurant website to see a photo of the owner on his motorcycle in front of the Eiffel Tower, looking a bit like Bono.
Our evening repast began with a glass of Proseco accompanied by an amusé bouche of buffalo mozzarella pearls, a creation that may be ordered as a starter or antipasti. On the menu it is listed as Perle di Stracciatella e Bottarga, which are mozzarella fior di latte pearls, on Bruschetta, served with crystallized tomato and shaved celery. A selection of foccacia and homemade bread rolls was also brought to our table, while a lovely portion of olive oil from Sicily was poured on a small plate. A second, sort of impromptu amuse was served, this being a side plate of black olives from Apulia. Our host wanted to sample some of his favorite foods, and this was an added treat. All Schenatti creations are homemade—the bread, the pasta, desserts etc. The restaurant uses BIO flour ground by natural stone at the mill “Mulino Marino” in Langhe Piemonte. In addition, all the produce comes freshly from farms in Sicily.
We were next served Triologia al Tartufo bianco d’ Alba, a trilogy of poached egg, Colonnata bacon with white Alba truffle-flavored cream, and veal tartare, served with cheese pastry. This was paired with a Giba (2013) white wine from a small town in Sardinia, the wine made from Vermentino grapes (€38), a very fine and refreshing accompaniment.
Our third selection was the Tentacolo di Polpo, a very delicious portion of lemongrass braised and grilled octopus tentacle, perhaps the hit of the evening! It was served with romaescho broccoli puree, Taggiasche olives, caper berries, fregola sarda with cuttlefish ink. Priced at €22, it was exceptionally prepared and presented.
Two pasta selections were next introduced. First was Chitarra al farro, homemade BIO spelt wheat spaghetti, stir-fried with pork cheek, Reggiano Parmesan, and eggs carbonara style. These organic wheat noodles served in a rich, creamy sauce was one of Schenatti’s specialties of the house. I would gladly return for this selection again and again and would not leave the restaurant without ordering it.
The next pasta was the Ravioli di mirtilli ai Porcini & Tartufo bianco d’ Alba. Wild blueberry raviolis, stuffed with potatoes, mascarpone, white Alba truffles were placed on stir-fried thyme-flavored porcinis, a creative and tasty dish. These selections were paired with a glass of L’Intruso (The Intruder) red wine from the cellars of Luigi Giusti (2011). The Montepulciano grapes, grown in small production on the Adriatic, are blended with Sangiovese and Merlot, making for a slightly spicy, yet fruity flavor.
Following our pasta courses, we were served a fish and a meat course. Capesante ai semi di zucca e limone are scallops stir-fried in thyme, served with Colonnata bacon, pumpkin seed oil sauce, lemon pearls, and Venere (black) rice. The scallops were moist, tender and creatively presented with the black rice.
The final entrée, Maialino da latte al cacao, was suckling pig baked with a hard shell of cacao, served with cherry sauce, celeria puree, courgettes, and cherry reduction. This unusual item was unique and attractive, a little on the dry side, yet very tasty.
For dessert we were served two selections, one on the menu and the other a unique creation by the chef that is slated to be forthcoming on a future menu. The Pesca Bianca, is a white poached peach served with cold zabaglione and gariguette strawberry sorbet. Zabaglione is generally made with egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine, usually Marsala. The dessert version is a light, whipped custard. In France, it is called sabayon. Last of all came Chef Schenatti’s special dessert: 3 candied pears served with 2 chocolate wafers, chocolate ice cream (70% chocolate), rosemary and caramel, served with a meringue cookie. This delicious pièce de résistance was served with Visciola, also from Luigi Giusti, from the Lacrima del Moro d’ Alba region, a very fine sherry wine.
Seating a cozy 34 guests, the little restaurant on rue Frederic Sauton is just a short walk from the Maubert-Mutualité metro stop. Hours of operation are from 7:15 pm to 11 pm Monday through Saturday with lunch served 12:15-3:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
After you’ve had all the French fare you can handle while visiting Paris, a visit to Officina Schenatti will remind you that a fine Italian meal can hold its own in comparison to any regional cuisine. Chef Schenatti is capable of creating magnificent offerings, each one rivaling the former for delight to the eyes and palate. A visit here is the perfect way to spend an evening dining in style and gastronomic elegance.
Ristorante Officina Schenatti
15, rue Frédéric Sauton 75005 Paris
Tel: +33 1 46 34 08 91