During the winter months, one of the quieter pleasures of Paris is exploring its atmospheric passages – the network of elegant, 18th-century arcades sheltered by clerestory roofs, situated in the heart of the city.
While experiencing their harlequin stone floors and elegant shop fronts, you might almost expect to run into Émile Zola, perhaps taking a pensive stroll after picking up a new order of visiting cards at Stern, the distinguished engraver and printer once located in the Passage des Panoramas.
Today, the front windows of the premises once occupied by the venerable company, founded in 1830 and now located on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, feature two stuffed animals – a wolf and a lynx – with rhinestone collars. This is an oddball reference to the passage’s ‘through the looking glass’ quality and a tip-off that it was designer Philippe Starck, with his relentlessly irreverent imagination, who provided the look of the shop’s new incarnation: Caffè Stern.
This is the first Paris restaurant from Italy’s innovative Alajmo restaurant group, which runs the excellent, Michelin three-star Le Calandre in Padova and the romantic Il Quadri overlooking Venice’s Piazza San Marco. Alajmo partnered with Paris restaurateur David Lanher, whose other ventures include the trendy Paradis, Racines and Vivant, and the result is a lively and amusing place that’s an ideal destination for breakfast, a light lunch or a dinner of very good contemporary Italian dishes.
Among the dishes I enjoyed during a recent dinner with friends were a sort of Asian-inspired steamed pizza topped with vegetables, a first-rate risotto, the best veal cutlet a la Milanese I’ve ever had in Paris, turkey tonnato (like the veal version but made with breast meat from the bird), involtini filled with fried langoustines and bottarga, and a superb baba au rhum accompanied by cinnamon ice cream. Be sure and book, since it’s very popular.
47 passage des Panoramas, 47 Galerie des Variétés, 75002 Paris. Tel: +33 1 75 43 63 10 (No website). Open daily, 8.30am-12pm. Closed Sundays & Mondays. Average dinner €45.
Based in Paris, restaurant columnist Alexander Lobrano  has published a new book, Hungry for France , along with a new edition of his popular Hungry for Paris. Find these books and more in our bookstore .
From France Today magazine