Arriving on the scene in the shadow of cool-as-heck big sister (Merci concept store) Grazie is already turning heads with distressed industrial chic decor and wagging tongues with superior pizza and cocktail rumours. So, a week after its opening Kim and I were on the stools checking out and chatting with Oscar, the tatooed Italiano behind the bar.
The first thing I noticed was not the pleasant deviation from the common speakeasy/lounge style or the stepped up class for a pizza joint. The first thing I noticed was the smell. Something good was cooking in the large stone pizza oven visible from the open kitchen. I mentioned to Kim that the smell and the style combination reminded me of San Fransisco. I’m not even really sure what I meant by that, but Melanie made the same comment when she arrived so perhaps there is something to it.
Originally just up from Italy to consult on bar set up, Oscar ended up staying to work. The cocktail menu hints at his Italian origins in its offerings (Aperol Spritz), ingredients (Cynar) and cheeky names like 8 1/2 or the Pimm’s Italiano. The 24 cocktails range in price from 9 to 15 Euros and comprise a respectable mix of traditional classics, tweaked classics and house creations. Plus, you gotta love a menu with a breakfast cocktail on it (Breakfast Martini.) The bar stock is small but very solid with an extremely impressive choice for a Paris bar (they’re working with the nice people over at LMDW Fine Spirits). Gins on offer include Brokers, Plymouth Navy Strength, Gin Mare, No. 3, Monkey 47, Bulldog and Hendrick’s.
I’d never tried Monkey 47 in a martini, so I went with that. It was expertly made and the Monkey 47 has a distinct crisp and bitter flavor that I personally found a welcome change of pace for my martini. [Although for those of you who don't drink martinis all the time, I'd recommend something a bit more classic from their choice.]
We had a larger group than usual for a Wed so I got to sample several different drinks. Bloody Mary fans should try the two bloody mary riffs (one including sake and wasabi and the other with Hendricks gin.) Other group favorites included la Vie en Rose, the Mediterranean gin and tonic (with a spray of house-flavoured salt) and the Speakeasy.
As we worked our way through the menu, the bar got progressively more packed. And, this is when Oscar went from from damn good to excellent in my estimation. He didn’t let the growing crowds pressure him into time-saving measures of dropping nice touches like using tongs instead of fingers to handle straws. He maintined his cocktail making standards but still knocked out drinks at an acceptable pace. Other little extras that impress are the attention to mixers (Fever tree tonic over Schweppes) and the beautiful bar and glassware.
We would have loved to have scored a table for some pizza tasting, but the place was already booked up for the week. Instead, the friendly staff served us at the bar. And the these pizzas are the perfect accompaniment to the cocktails. When a drinks menu is so tempting, upscale carby goodness is the ideal way to soak up any overindulgence. And these pizzas aren’t just belly-fillers – they’ll draw as much clientele on their own as the cocktails.
Overall, Grazie is a great deviation from the Paris norms. I think Oscar is injecting some quality novelty into Paris’ nicely growing cocktail scene. I already made ressies for pizza and cocktails with the girls there next week to further explore. But, for now, Grazie seems to be more than earning the hype it’s generated.
What? you still want more info on this hotspot? Check out Kim’s post on I Heart Paris.