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Monday, April 4, 2011

Pizza Cocktail Adventures: Grazie

91 blvd
01 42
78 11

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.

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Anonymous columbine said...

now aperol spritz is so much my favourite Italian aperitivo and few places have it in Paris, that is tempting. plus it's close from home, so i will definitely be checking it soon (same for the Candelaria).

April 4, 2011 at 5:33 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

Hi Columbine! Aperol spritz have been a long-time favorite of mine as well. They're nearly impossible to find in Paris (well, at least well made ones)so I usually end up just making them at home. I didn't try them here (yet!) but they looked like he was doing a great job with them. Plus, i think we may start seeing more popping up in bars. I've noticed a marked increased interest in them over the past couple of years & think Aperol is making a pretty big marketing push at the moment.

Anyway - let me know what you think about both places when you get a chance to check them out!

April 4, 2011 at 5:36 AM  
Anonymous Sweet Freak said...

Oh, I am so excited to give Grazie a try!

April 4, 2011 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

We brought the Monkey 47 gin back from Germany. One of the botanicals is pine cone. At the time it only came in smaller bottles.

April 4, 2011 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Shelli said...

We discovered Monkey 47 just before leaving for the US in January, only to discover it apparently isn't imported there. We'll rush over to Grazie for that martini when we get back in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the heads up.

April 5, 2011 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Forest said...

Wendy:i remember you guys getting that when we were in Germany. i tasted some awhile back at some event and don't remember being overly wowed, but I really like it in my martini the other night. What are you guys thinking of it? What are you using it in?

Shelli: same question to you - how are you drinking the 47? I've not seen it at any other bar in Paris besides this one. But, you can also get it here at LMDW Fine Spirits.

April 6, 2011 at 2:16 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

I'm a bit confused about this place. Wasn't Merci set up to be some dogooder charity shop (albeit for the wealthiest bobos)? Do the profits from this venture go to charity too?

Secondly, aren't people getting tired of distressed chic yet?

April 8, 2011 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

Hi Adam

For the concept, yes. The Cohens (i believe) started Merci and they donate proceeds to a charity for underpriviledged children in Madagascar. i assume Grazie does the same, but it's a good question, so I'm going to ask when I go there next week. That charity aspect is part of the appeal for me, so I'd like to find out. And, yes, it might be for wealthy bobo...but that's okay. I'm equal opportunity when it comes to taking peoples' $ for charity! :)

For distressed chic, I feel like yes and no. I think partly why this place reminded me of an SF bar is that you see this style everywhere in the US. However, i don't think you see this everywhere in bar in Paris. I don't think you can even compare it to places that at first glance migth seem similar from a deseign standpoint (la conserverie, minibar) It's not doing the funky utility chic that they are or the typical speakeasy style approach that you might find at ECC, etc. So, yeah, i'm kind of tired of distressed chic...but, i don't really see it like this very often in Paris and found it somewhat refreshing despite having seen it many many many times elsewhere. But of course...that's all up for debate because I pretty much know f-all about design, so I'm willing to take other comments on board on this one!

April 8, 2011 at 2:00 AM  
Anonymous Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

I like the sounds of it! Not keen on mixing cocktails and pizza but this place might just convert me.

April 13, 2011 at 3:53 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

Corinne - i get that (but for some reason happen to be having a lot of pizza/cocktail combo lately...)

Anyway, i was just back there last night and started with an Aperol Spritz. That might be my preferred cocktail to go with a pizza!

April 13, 2011 at 3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just discovered this place by chance (actually because I was eating at the vegan restaurant across the street and saw it on my way out) and although there isn't much lactose-free stuff on the menu... I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the décor. Let me know when you are up for drinks over there again!

April 17, 2011 at 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Jacques said...

like all the comments. that's always a good signal.

design for a factor, but spending the night, an hour, the time of a drink with great hospitality personality is never boring, whatever (too much) distress chic ...
ps Oscar's innovations, pls do try `giardini sulla luna`, `spicy gimlet`, `moon cooler' or ... `voodoo libation`.
cordial ch11rs!

July 10, 2011 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Sugar Daze said...

Have eaten at Grazie 3 times now and it keeps getting better and better. Last time, my husband and I ate at the bar and had front row seats to Oscar's mixing and shaking. With the exception of the Pizza Bianchi (too hard and too much rosemary), everything has been just stellar! Special high marks to the antipasti plate, tartare of daurade and the spicy sausage pizza. Oscar makes a mojito with bite & I've loved all the specialty cocktails (of special note a drink my husband had that combined grapefruit juice, honey, basil and I think vodka; love how Oscar slaps the herbs to get the flavors going). Oh, I could go on and on! Forest, any time you want to plan a meet-up at Grazie, count me in!

July 20, 2011 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi...Your post really got me thinking man..... an intelligent piece ,I must say. Get more information about Cocktail making .

August 24, 2011 at 4:31 AM  
Blogger Laurel Hammond said...

this looks like this just might be the pne to try!

September 9, 2011 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Forest said...

Laurel: It's a good one to try definitely - but you might want to try it soon. The lovely Oscar is returning to Italy very soon. He's promised he's training the remaining bar staff to mix like he does, but I"ve a suspicion that they won't be able to match him.

September 9, 2011 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Laurel Hammond said...

We will be there over Christmas- Do you think he will still be there?

September 10, 2011 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

he'll be gone by then! :( but I'll keep checking back there and try and keep an update on the drinks post-oscar.

September 10, 2011 at 12:56 AM  

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