Casanova is an olive oil lover. Cédric Casanova, that is, the man behind (or with?) La Tête Dans Les Olives, the closet-sized boutique that becomes a table d’hote for five lucky souls at lunch time.
Cédric is a grossiste, or wholesaler, but that’s an awfully crass way to describe what he really does, which is cultivate relationships with olive growers in western Sicily who make the dozen or so superb oils on the shop shelves, each one named after its producer: Bianca, Nunzio, Salvatore…
The 30 euro lunch is composed of products available for sale in the boutique: Bread with pungent wild oregano and Trapani sea salt, two kinds of tapenade, sun-dried tomatoes and dishes of olives were waiting on the tiny folding table when we arrived.
Next came mushroom caps stuffed with tapenade, thinly sliced carrots rolled around a filling of mint and ricotta salata, and caramelized squash wedges sweet as candy. To all that we added a platter of fish. I thought bresaola was always beef but it turns out the same salting and drying technique can be applied to tuna (the cow of the sea?), and the resulting slices are unexpectedly mild and delicate. It was delicious, as were the anchovies swimming in a bath of olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.
The windows started to steam up but it wasn’t because we were talking too much (though we were). I turned around to see our cook Marco draining a pot of extra-hard durum wheat pasta for the main course, the Sicilian classic pasta alla Norma. Our third carafe of box white was ordered and we dug into the perfectly cooked curly noodles with tomato, fried eggplant, ricotta and a pesto of mint and parsley. It isn’t the season for basil in Paris, Marco explained.
Monsieur/Signore/Cédric Casanova is the exclusive supplier of olive oil to the Plaza Athenée, if you prefer to have your extra virgin with slightly more elbow room. Or you can take La Tête Dans Les Olives home with you. Finished with our almond cookies, dried figs and coffee, Marco and Cédric gently told us it was time to fold up the table and chairs so that they could open the shop. We obliged and then became the first customers of the day, loading up with olive oil, pasta, and mandorlini.
Sometimes I think I’m in the wrong country.
Francois Simon on LTDLO (en français)
John Talbott liked it too.