What was supposed to be a short trip to La Grande Épicerie inside the upscale shopping centre, Le Bon Marché in Paris, turned into a very pleasant improvised culinary experience. Upon entering, we discovered a sign informing us that a pizzeria had opened on the floor below. Before our intended grocery shopping, we decided to go for a brief reconnaissance mission to take a look at the new restaurant.

As it turned out, the dishes on the menu and ingredients displayed on the counter looked too tempting not to try. Could this new place actually serve food that could compare to traditional restaurants in Italy? I usually do not expect any sort of gastronomic wonder from establishments located inside shopping centres, but Iovine’s sparked my curiosity. The restaurant seemed like it could have potential even though all the tables were empty and it was set up in a very exposed way with onlooking shoppers on all sides.

Well installed with our menus I started hearing sounds of approval from my dining partner across the table who is a foodie and extremely picky. After browsing the menu for quite a while, the final choices were made. “Tagliere Misto”, which is a selection of cured meat, cheese, antipasti, rocket salad and cherry tomatoes. The pizza had to be tried so “Due Più 2” was ordered with a supplement of spicy salami from Calabria and topped with two types of cheese from Italy and two from France. From what was meant to be a quick grocery trip had now morphed into a full on dinner at 6.30 pm which is excessively early in Paris.

As the food arrived I was completely astonished by the size of the “Tagliere Misto” as it was meant for only one person. This platter could easily feed four people, it was gigantic! Not only that, but the selection of meat and cheese was of the highest quality and surpass the majority of charcuterie plates in Paris. I was apparently not the only person impressed by the tagliere as the other tables all of a sudden started filling up quickly with curious eyes and heads turning around to the food on our table. What we were served at Iovine’s is definitely a top notch piece of Italy inside Le Bon Marché. Also being maniac about olive oils, the one used here was way above par and an excellent match with the food.

After the great success of the two courses, we decided to try a dessert and the choice fell on the Caprese; a cake made of black chocolate with almonds and covered in warm white chocolate. There are very few words that can describe the dessert experience, but “heavenly” comes close to it. Followed by an exquisite double espresso, I would consider this fortuitous dining experience a remarkably pleasant surprise. Time flew by quickly at Iovine’s, so the Japanese specialties we came for had to yield to this precious gem on the lower level of Le Bon Marché.

By Maiken Lorentz

Photography by Edouard Lombard

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