Les Romains chez les Helvètes

Are you tired of the repetitive pizza-pasta Italian restaurants serving the same menu over and over again?

Then these two recommendations should delight you. Ristorante St Paul (https://www.ristorante-st-paul.ch) and Amici (http://www.ristoranteamici.ch) in Lausanne are two Italian family run restaurants that are surprisingly similar and both of which serve delicious southern Italian cuisine that is a bit out of the ordinary.

Ristorante St Paul is located in the up-and-coming avenue d’Echallens. The menu varies seasonally and includes dishes such as orecchiette with beef meatballs in a basil tomato sauce, farro risotto with pumpkin and ricotta salata or tagliata of Chateaubriand. No spaghetti Bolognese here! (not because of the Bolognese, but rather because serving ragù alla Bolognese with spaghetti is exclusively an extra-Italian invention) The meat lovers will appreciate the bistecca alla Fiorentina. Although I visited in the middle of the week, on a Wednesday night, the place was absolutely packed, so do not forget to book your table well in advance. The starter of chickpea puree with cime di rapa was absolutely delicious. The suggestion of seafood risotto was classic but very nicely done with a good amount of perfectly cooked and aromatic seafood. The caramelle (a sort of candy shaped ravioli) with radicchio and bacon were very good as well, although a little freshness in this dish would have been welcome. In general the food could benefit from a little finesse, since quite rustic, although I do realize that southern Italian cuisine is typically rustic even more so during the winter months. The wine menu is extensive but also the suggested wine by the glass was very good. The service is friendly and cheerful albeit a little inconsistent. For dessert I chose one of my favorites, an affogato, ice cream with hot espresso (they actually brought the moka caffettiera to the table, a nice idea!) poured over it, while my fiancé demolished a very good tiramisù. Nothing super creative in the dessert front, but well done and yummy.

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Ristorante St Paul

Ristorante Amici is finally a quite similar restaurant, although the family vibe seems even more apparent and the service is a little more onto the point. Since the place is even smaller but equally packed, advance booking is an absolute must. The restaurant is located on the corner of rue Dr. César-Roux and despite the space being tiny it is well designed with beautiful large windows. If you are only two, the bar seating is actually a great option. The owners are Calabrians, which translates nicely into their food and wine menu. Expect dishes such as Sicilian salad with fennel and orange, warm octopus salad with tomatoes and potatoes, or pasta with hazelnuts, bacon and cream. The cuisine is very tasteful and generous. Similar to St Paul, some freshness and finesse would be welcome, which would elevate the food to a higher level. Reason why I definitively preferred my visit in the summer months, where the dishes are naturally more delicate and aromatic. The desserts are equally yummy but also equally classic.

So which of the two restaurants do I prefer? Cuisine-wise, they are very similar but a little (personal) plus goes to Amici for their very welcoming service and beautiful setting. I am sure Asterix would approve!

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Ristorante Amici
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