Madame Épicerie

The story of Alessandra Pierini, who brought the World Pesto Championship to Paris. An event starting on Friday

Italian Alessandra Pierini at the entrance of her

Italian Alessandra Pierini at the entrance of her RAP Epicerie in 4, Rue Flechier, in Paris, where she’s been living for almost 20 years. She’s the person who got the idea of bringing Roberto Panizza’s World Pesto Championship to the Ville Lumière. The event is to start this Friday, with the eliminating round of edition 2018. To enrol in the competition, write to (photo by Michelle Goldstein)

Over 500 plants of Genovese basil are expected in the Ville Lumière on Saturday 4th June when the second edition of the Contest for the Best Mortar Pesto in Paris will take place. It will be a no-holds-barred contest, in view of the World Championship in Genoa in 2018. It is organised by Alessandra Pierini (RAP Epicerie), Alan Cirelli (Le Purgatoire – 54 Paradis) and Maurizio Pinto (Voltalacarta), with the support of cultural association Palatifini.

The entire weekend will be dedicated to Genoa’s specialty: starting on Friday night, with the aperitif prepared by Maurizio Pinto, continuing on Saturday with the contest, a market with artisanal products, a pesto demo by Roberto Panizza and the Pesto des Personalités, a mortar contest among famous culinary personalities. The pesto-event will end on Sunday, with a brunch offering delicacies from Liguria, also by Pinto.

It was after attending the World Championship in Genoa in 2014 that Alessandra had the idea of bringing the contest to Paris. It was immediately supported by cultural association Palatifini and, in particular, by Roberto Panizza. As in the first edition, they will also participate to officialise the competition. «My idea came from the desire to make Paris and France learn about this emblematic Genovese recipe so that, in this way, we could also speak about the city and about Liguria, which truly deserve to be discovered. Besides, it’s my town. I adore it».

A detail of the poster for the 2ème Concours de pesto au mortier de Paris

A detail of the poster for the 2ème Concours de pesto au mortier de Paris

Raised in a family where palates had high expectations, her father from Liguria, her mother, who «lives in order to cook», from Parma, Alessandra arrived in France in 1987, to follow her partner (today her ex husband) and settled down in Aix en Provence, where she produced Italian cheese. She sold her products to local restaurants and, given her distinguishing passion and culture, she explained how to use them and recommended recipes. Yet the necessary ingredients were, at the time, impossible to find. So more and more often she would return home with a suitcase full of capers from Pantelleria, taggiasche olives, friarielli...

This until she took a leap: from Aix to Marseille, from the suitcase to a green van. Having realised there’s a need for Italian gastronomy in France, Alessandra launched Pasta e Dolce, her first shop. She filled the shelves with the precious booty of her frequent trips to Italy. For every product she had a story to tell and a few recipes to recommend. Yet words no longer sufficed. She thus completed the shop with a small restaurant inside.

17 years later, her love for change and challenge led her to Paris, where she opened RAP, a miniscule épicerie packed with marvels from all of Italy, and a small restaurant. These were two close yet separate entities, «because I had the feeling clients didn’t take the cooking inside the shop seriously». She also imported the entire team from Italy and both businesses soon became popular all around town.

However, what with the preparations for the restaurant, the dining room service and selling in the shop she had no time left to travel to Italy, which is what she’s most enthusiastic about and is the real engine giving her the energy to do everything. The restaurant thus closed down and the épicerie moved to a larger location, with a nice cellar for the wines and the frequent tastings that Alessandra organises.

It’s a magical épicerie, not just for the French in love with Italy or for nostalgic Italians, but for every curious food lover wanting to dive into the magic of the best Italian excellences, even the rarest and least known, where every product has a story to be told.

RAP - épicerie fine italienne
4 Rue Flechier,
75009 Paris, France


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