From paper to the épicerie

Journalist Julia Sammut opened a shop with delicious food in Marseille. With plenty of Italy...

Julia Sammut is a French famous gastronomic critic

Julia Sammut is a French famous gastronomic critic who chose a different way to tell about her culinary encounters. This is why Épicerie L'Idéal was born in Rue d'Aubagne in Marseille: a treasure chest full of delicious food which are also turned into dishes to eat on the spot. Ilaria Brunetti’s story for Identità Golose (photo by J. Oppenheim)

After many years spent writing about food, Julia Sammut, famous French gastronomic critic chose to tell about her culinary encounters in a different way. Today, instead of words she prefers tastings, instead of an editorial team she prefers her épicerie with kitchen, a modern shop in the colourful and multiethnic heart of Marseille.

Shy but direct, with an open and luminous smile, Julia has a nice mix of nationalities and strong cultures in her blood: French, Tunisian, Sicilian, Maltese, Jewish. Born in the business – her mother is Reine Sammut, chef and owner of starred restaurant Auberge La Fenière, in Provence, while her father Guy is the soul of the dining room – despite developing a natural passion for food, she initially did not want to take on the road of the restaurant industry. She studies journalism and arrives, ça va sans le dire, to culinary writing, working for Le Fooding, Grazia, Les Echos, Côté Sud

Julia Sammut

Julia Sammut

One day, when driving to yet another interview an idea pops up in her mind, suddenly and unexpectedly: «I want to open an épicerie in Noailles». Seemingly absurd, since she had never desired to have a place of her own, this intention has the strength of a revelation and she cannot get it out of her mind until it becomes true.

Before moving the first step, she spends some time in Paris, in the temple of Italian gastronomy in France, épicerie RAP, beside Alessandra Pierini, whom she still considers her mentor, on top of a friend. She returns to Marseille with even more enthusiasm and determination.

Noailles, a short walk from the Vieux Port, born as the neighbourhood of Marseille’s aristocracy, today is a popular and cosmopolitan area, one of the liveliest in town, where there are many Arab, Asian, Indian shops, delicatessen and restaurants, and the famous marché des Capucins, a multiethnic and chaotic food market. Despite having radically changed over time, this arrondissement has always maintained a strong connection with food, with luxurious delicatessens first, and now exotic flavours from various ethnic cuisines.

«I never saw myself in a restaurant. I see myself here. I wanted to become part of this neighbourhood so rich of history: do you know they used to call it the belly of Marseille?».

In this labyrinth of roads, customs and flavours Julia, with her personal heritage of different cultures, feels at home, and despite a little initial skepticism from those around her, it is here that she openedL’Ideal, her delicatessen with kitchen, last March. A place that took shape almost in a natural way, without previous plans. The décor, handed to Honoré, a firm by two young designers from Marseille, arrived one piece at a time: the tiles, the shelves running from one end to the other, the large table for lunch and breakfast... The idea itself of serving food, which was not foreseen at first, arrived together with Aurelien, the guy who today prepares a few dishes with the extraordinary products from the shop.

On the big shelves, Julia places every product she’s fallen in love with – because she’s animated by real love – during her career as a journalist, and her most recent discoveries, like the treasures she uncovered this year at Salone del Gusto in Torino, where she took her staff to initiate them to Italian excellences. «I cannot deny my origins, my Sicilian blood. Do you know our house specialty is fish couscous?».

On top of the best products from France and Italy, at L’Ideal you can find some special products from other countries too: English cheese, saké from Japan or Jewish specialties, such as smoked fish or pastrami. In order to conquer her, a product mustn’t only be of high quality, it needs to have a story too, a human side behind the label. «The difference between an excellent lavender honey and the other is made by the producers. The human côté is essential when I’m choosing a product».

The human side is also what makes L’Ideal stand out: while thanks to her mother, Julia developed a palate and learnt to choose the best products, her father taught her the meaning of hospitality and the importance of welcoming a client. In the first three months, L’Ideal attracted a very varied clientele of food lovers, who come here to do their grocery shopping, have a delicious lunch, or coffee, but always to have a great experience.

Contrary to what one may think, Julia didn’t push on communication. Word of mouth is the only publicity she’s looking for. Contrary to journalism, «I no longer need to tell of things I’m not doing, I no longer need to take on a role. I have nothing more to say. Enough with “storytelling”. I’m completely honest. Before, I didn’t feel like myself, now I’m in heaven».

Épicerie L'Idéal
11, Rue d'Aubagne
Marseille (Ier), +33.980.399941


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