Paris v. Roma – Part I: Cuisine

15 Mar
If Paris is a Grande Dame, Roma is her rambunctious and unruly sister. After a week in Paris, we cannot help but compare and contrast gorgeous Paris to Bella Roma. Each city has much to love and other things that leave you shaking your head.
Great cappuccino at a neighborhood cafe, where locals go. This was not by a tourist attraction. We drank it at the bar and still it was €4.20 FOR ONE. I shudder to think of what they would have charged if we sat down.

Great cappuccino at a neighborhood cafe, where locals go. This was not by a tourist attraction. We drank it at the bar and still it was €4.20 FOR ONE. I shudder to think of what they would have charged if we sat down.

Starting with the obvious, food. On our first trip to Italy in 2010 Ric observed “There are no bad meals in Italy; some are just better than others.” While we can attest to having had one really terrible meal in Italy in the ensuing years, we had two crappy meals in Paris in our first three 3 days and during the week some that were just meh. There is bad food in Paris. Really bad. BUT THE BAGUETTES, oh-la-la! So good and so cheap! Both Roma and Paris have pastry shops and bakeries to be proud of. Baguette versus pizza bianca? Tough choice, but I’d have to go with baguette. French croissants and pain au chocolat beat Italian cornetti IMHO.
The espresso is good in Paris, but pricey by comparison to Roma where one has a God-given right to an inexpensive high-quality shot and a bar available every 300 meters where you can buy it.  They do have Starbucks in Paris but I am not sure that is a good thing; we did not bother to try one. We do like the Cafes Richard brand, of course.
There is ethnic diversity in the Parisian food scene. Walk down the street in Paris and you might see a pattern of restaurants like this
French  Vietnamese  French  Japanese  French  Kebab  Italian  French
In Rome it would look like this
Italian      Pizza     Bar      Kebab     Italian     Pizza      Bar     Italian
Wine is reasonably priced in Italy. We spend far less on wine in Roma than we ever did in the U.S. In fact our wine-and-coffee spending is a fraction of what it was in the U.S., and not because we have
Artful stacking at a cafe in Montmarte.

Artful stacking at a cafe in Montmarte.

cut back on either. In Paris, both wine and espresso are expensive by comparison.  Even house wine is quaffable in Italy, but some wine-by-the glass or carafe in Paris is, well, overpriced and barely drinkable. We have had some fantastic bottles, though one pays dearly at a restaurant.  We missed the Italian tradition of serving snacks with a glass of wine at aperitivo hour.
Water by the bottle, nice and sparkling if you like, is an expectation at every meal in Italy, and a litre will usually cost no more than €2.00 or 3.00.  When we ordered bottled water in Paris we were hit with a €6.00-7.00 price!  However tap water, ordered only by una brutta figura in Italy, is gladly handed out in a carafe in Paris. Free is a very good price.
It was quiet at Versailles the day we went. Only customers in garden cafe.

It was quiet at Versailles the day we went. Only customers in garden cafe.

We did have Boeuf Bourguignon that was practically life-changing. Served with a mountain of mashed potatoes, it was in a little oven-pot in a rich wine sauce heavily laced with bay leaves and bacon. We ate it with good French red wine and hunks of baguette. It was a good thing we had walked about 13 km that day! Quality vegetables beyond salads have been harder to find when dining out. In Italy there are fabulous contorni to be had that are not starchy and white. In fact I am craving a plate of cicoria ripassata now.
Watch for my next post Paris v. Roma – Part II: Street Scene and Getting Around


Guess where we are celebrating our 30th anniversary?

Guess where we are celebrating our 30th anniversary?

15 Responses to “Paris v. Roma – Part I: Cuisine”

  1. Zoe March 19, 2015 at 18:30 #

    There’s no bakery chain in Italy like Paul’s in France. And I agree, Laurel, I had some pretty bad food in France – but also in Firenze.


    • gooddayrome March 19, 2015 at 18:33 #

      Paul’s was great for an “institution!” We will go back… in spring…maybe 2016!


  2. Susan March 19, 2015 at 15:16 #

    Joyeux Anniversaire! Yes, Paris is lovely but spendy….no matter what the exchange! But Spain – at least outside of the big cities, and maybe off-season- is quite a bargain right now! And the panaderías have some wonderful offerings!


    • gooddayrome March 19, 2015 at 18:32 #

      Merci Susan! I have heard Spain is very affordable. Hope you are having soem sun!


  3. karen March 18, 2015 at 05:11 #

    Ok Laurel, now you need to go to Barcelona and compare the three! When I was there the food was fabulous and very inexpensive compared to both Rome and Paris.
    Spain in those did not have much ethnic food either; wonder if theyve expanded. In Spain
    you also get your cafe in a bar, and many have a menu del dia with a starter, main dish, dessert and wine included.
    Enjoy. Buen provecho!


    • gooddayrome March 18, 2015 at 05:21 #

      Hi Karen! Great idea! We need to figure out when/how to fit Spain into all of our travel plans!


  4. Chloe March 16, 2015 at 16:53 #

    Thank you for the names of the restaurants. We try to get up there at least once during the year, so will try them out. Sometimes we get to apartment sit for friends, which we love to do. That means we can eat better than when we have to pay for hotels. You look cold in your photos. We are sweltering here in California so are not looking forward to our return to France in April. It does give us two springs however, which we love.


    • gooddayrome March 16, 2015 at 18:20 #

      Thanks Chloe! Hope you enjoy then as much as we did!


  5. Chloe March 16, 2015 at 01:00 #

    Just what are these restaurants? We could give them our vote of confidence when next we are there.


    • gooddayrome March 16, 2015 at 04:13 #

      Les Papilles, close to the Luxembourg Gardens, fixed price meal, set menu, no choices. It’s a “cave du vin” so you select your wine off the wall (which can be expensive). We had a FABULOUS meal. Reservations in advance.

      In Montmarte we had life-changing Boeuf Bourguignon at a hole-in-the-wall called Cave La Gourmande. It is very unprepossessing as a location, but the boeuf! Wow! Also had a superb warm goat cheese salad.


  6. Maron Faulkner March 15, 2015 at 18:58 #

    Yum, Laurel – you’re making me hungry with your descriptions of some of that great food over there! (Makes me happy I’m going to France in June with a group of students!)

    The best French food I ever ate were the homemade meals by my French host mom – simple and wonderful. Also, guess where they lived? Right on the Italian border! Coincidence???


    • gooddayrome March 15, 2015 at 19:26 #

      Bonjour Maron! We had did have that absolutely fabulous meal of Boeuf Bourguignon which overall is simple: stew with attitude! Have a fun trip!


  7. Chloe March 15, 2015 at 18:26 #

    Several years ago one of our granddaughters was visiting us in France. While she was there, we took her several places in Europe, including Rome. When she returned home, her parents asked her what she enjoyed the most in France and her answer was, “Rome.” She has been able to return to her favorite city several times since then and her answer remains the same. I love Paris, but have to agree with you about the food. My suggestion to anyone who goes there is to try to find regional restaurants, those that serve food from certain regions of France. If you do that you can usually get a good meal and one that is reasonably priced, at least for Paris. I have never found a good Italian restaurant in France. As here, they try to make Italian food too complicated; they just can’t believe that good food can be so simply made. At least Paris is beautiful and can be visited for that.


    • gooddayrome March 15, 2015 at 19:27 #

      Great story Chloe! We found two places that are “go backs” and we will go back! For now I am happy to be home with my Nespresso machine.



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