I realize that chowhounds don't come to Paris to eat Italian food, but surely everyone - visitors and locals alike - deserves an occasional reprieve from the tyranny of butter and cream. At its best, Italian food is simple, honest, undisguised, good-natured: all the things that French food is not. There are plenty of Italian places to choose from but, alas, Paris ruins every edible thing that it touches, so one must be very selective. Italian traiteurs tend to be quite good, but the restaurants are another matter. Everyone knows, for example, that it is practically impossible to get a decent pizza. I recently ate lunch at the one-star Sormani, with its garish décor. My meal wasn't just bad - it was positively vile. A much better choice is this tiny, simple neighborhood joint:
La Casa Campana
20 rue de l'Exposition
Metro Ecole Militaire
Tel. 01 45 51 37 71
This is one of several small restaurants on rue de l'Exposition. A couple of the others have been mentioned on this board (La Serre, Le Ptit Troquet) but the Casa is the only one that deserves chowhound patronage. It used to be called Casa di Sergio and, if anything, has improved since it changed owners earlier this year.
The décor is cheerful, and the hand-painted plates and bowls add a nice touch. The new owners are Sicilian, but they really have to operate a generic Italian place to attract locals, who invariably demand pasta with bolognese or carbonara sauce, scallopine, tiramisu, etc. This is too bad, but, after all, what counts are ingredients, execution and service, and this is where the Casa shines. I particularly like the calamari fritti, and the seafood in general (evrything comes in from the nearby Sablaise poissonier). There is a good selection of wines (with emphasis on those from Sicily), reasonably priced.
I want to be clear: there are no gastronomic fireworks here, just good plain Italian cooking, a pleasant dining room, and friendly service. There are hundreds of places like this all over Italy. Dinner for two, with a couple of glasses of wine, is about 70 euros a very good value.