The signs were bad, for so many reasons. Firstly, there was my friend Jack’s claim that he knew “this great little Italian”. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this announcement, but it’s often enough to twig that “great little” usually means “cheap(ish), for the very good reason that the food is – at best – average”. Secondly, there was the fact that the restaurant in question was in the stretch of Rue Haute halfway between the flea market and the bottom of the Sablon; an area where the onus is more on fashion statements than on culinary excellence.
Finally, there was the name of the restaurant, more suited to a New Jersey strip joint than to a hidden gem of an eatery. To my immense relief, I’m happy to report that Easy Tempo is indeed a great little Italian. So much so, in fact, that my significant other and I went there twice in the space of 10 days.
Our first visit was a sober affair – literally. We were joined by three teetotal friends, and thought it would be a sensible idea to lay off the booze too, seeing as this was midweek and the previous night had not been without excesses.
We started off with that trusted Italian classic, antipasto misto: a cold platter consisting of butter beans, stuffed courgette chunks, cauliflower florets and green beans among other vegetables, lightly drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Two plates for five was just the right amount.
Next up were the mains: two of my friends had pizza (one vegetarian, the other a risk-free four seasons), and both were delighted with the crispness of the dough as well as the quality of the toppings. Another friend marvelled at her orecchiette coi broccoletti: another Italian classic of ear-shaped pasta shells with broccoli florets. My better half, meanwhile, remained silent about her seafood spaghetti; always a good sign with her and, indeed, not only did she praise the overall taste of the dish, but she singled out the way the squid had been cooked – neither underdone, nor rubbery. Finally, I had plumped for cep and mascarpone ravioli in a creamy truffle sauce. To say it was rich would be a gross understatement. Inevitably, I found myself mopping up the sauce with bread – it was either that or licking the plate clean. In fact we were so full that we wisely skipped dessert and, as we left, we vowed to come back...
...which we did, just over a week later, accompanied this time by a visiting friend from London, who – hurrah – likes a drink (albeit within reason, naturally). Perfect timing, too, for it was the weekend, meaning we were allowed a tipple. Once again we ordered the antipasto, just one plate this time, augmented with fine Italian charcuterie.
The other two then had calves’ livers alla veneziana – in a shallot and white wine sauce – served with parsley potatoes. Not being too keen on liver, I had to take their word that it was splendid. Me, I behaved in a totally unadventurous manner and chose the truffle ravioli again. Same end result. Yum. On the drinks front, we had two bottles of Barbera d’Alba, from the Piedmont region; a perfect match for both dishes, and reasonably priced in the low twenties.
On both visits the bill came to €110 – excellent value for money given the quality of the food, even without desserts. So my friend Jack does know a “great little Italian” after all – apologies all round.
146 Rue Haute, tel 02.513.54.40