Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thursday Night At The Bini

I know it sounds blasphemous but one of my favorite restaurants in Paris is an Italian joint. Casa Bini lies just south of the Boulevard Montparnasse in a two-story building housing the family of Mrs. Anna Bini. The food is traditional Puglian with a large menu of classics and house favorites that never change. The principal allure of the place is the leaflet of daily specials. I have rarely encountered the same dish twice and the specials always impress so much so that my family, and most people I know in Paris, list Casa Bini as one of their favorites. I had dinner there a few days ago with a couple of my cousins and the food was delicious as always. The nice thing about a place like Casa Bini is that you always know what to expect; friendly staff, dusty pictures of the Italian countryside, and dimly lit dining rooms. It is the culinary delights coming out of the bustling kitchen that are novel. My cousins and I arrived at about 8 to the warm welcome of the eldest Bini son, a small round man with a baldhead and thickly Italian accent. As was expected we all ordered from the daily offerings boasting tons of fresh seafood and other seasonal ingredients from the best Parisian markets. I apologize for the lousy photography. The dimly lit dining hall, however romantic, did not facilitate photography.

I started out with the duo de langoustines, an intricate dish of roasted langoustines, poached scallops, and a sun dried tomato and squash ragout with micro greens. The langoustines were delicious of course; a tasty delight however prepared that is in my top ten favorite ingredients of all time. Honestly. The scallops were excellently cooked as well and paired nicely with the warm squash salad brightened by aged balsamic. My cousin Nick who sat to my left in photo range had the courgettes farci or stuffed zucchini. The small hollowed out zucchini beds were filled with sweet pork sausage spiced with fennel and chili flakes accompanied by a simple fennel and arugula salad.

The fresh pastas are made every morning at Casa Bini and I usually take a pasta course as my main or secondi instead of roast meat or poultry. About once a month I dream about the linguini with langoustines and cherry tomatoes but alas it was not on the menu that night much to my chagrin. I chose instead the linguini alla tonno or linguini with fresh tuna. The pasta was tossed in a light tomato sauce with fresh tuna, olives, and capers. Delicious and rustic as good Italian always is meant to highlight the ingredients themselves rather than the extent of their cooking process. Nick had the asparagus risotto smelling of nutty Parmesan with little green spears poking out here and there. It was good though I doubted the seasonality and would have suggested something a little more exotic but to each his own. It was a wonderful meal all around and I highly recommend Casa Bini regardless of the fact that it is an Italian restaurant in the city of lights. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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