When there is a line in Paris, you know you’ve stumbled upon something new and trendy. Recently, we waited in a line at the Station F, a small business incubator and one of the newest hot spots in Paris. Housed in a former rail station in the 13th arrondissement used by La Poste, today it is home to Paris’s coolest small business start-ups. But we don’t care about business — not here at least. Today we’re talking about food.
Part of the Station F is dedicated to La Felicità, which is essentially a giant public food court (or a food market, for those who prefer to sound classy). It’s not ritzy, but it oozes cool. Run by the Big Mamma Group, known for its pizza restaurants in Paris, you’ll find its influence all over La Felicità with a variety of Italian-inspired eateries.
Reminiscent of Mercato Centrale in Rome and Florence, or the Mercato Metropolitano in London, Paris’s version is a smaller but well-executed version. The concept is simple. Various counters offer different fare, and customers can meet back in the seating area to feast together.
Old train cars and mismatched furniture give the place a very hipster feel, something rare on the Left Bank. There is plenty of seating, mostly at communal tables both inside and outside. The line to get in, we could only assume, was to give the kitchens a chance to keep up with demand.
Different vendors serve different fare, but expect variety, and lines, again. It’s sort of a theme here. The outdoor pizza ovens required a forty minute wait, after waiting some twenty minutes to enter the hall. Inside, the pasta-filled trattoria seemed strained while the “sexy” burger joint (a pop up from Chicago), sandwich station, and grill section also kept a healthy business going. It’s not fast food. Not yet, at least. Perhaps as the buzz dies down, lunch can be spent at the table with friends instead of in line waiting. But there’s no love lost!
The pizza was pretty good, and I’ve become quite a snob. Next time, I might even hit the cocktail bar for one of the spritzes.
After lunch, we tried the dessert station — aka the caffeteria — where coffee and chilled infusions awaited, surrounded by a selection of cakes and cookies. The chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter was the furthest thing from “Italian,” but it was too good for us to care.
Prices are all reasonable. Pizza starting at €8. Espresso for €1.5. Salads for €9-10. It’s not a splurge by any means, and it’s a great experience to indulge in something different.
While the website says the eatery is meant to be open 24/7 to the public, the security guard explained that, for the moment, this is not the case. Only those who work at Station F have access to the space 24/7. As we left, no more people were being admitted until dinner time, he said. It wouldn’t be Italian-themed if the communication wasn’t a bit muddled.
Overall, it’s worth the trek for something different at lunchtime, and if you’re a mobile worker, you can bring your laptop and just stay inside and work all afternoon. The mezzanine level even has a “library” with book shelves and long desks with electric outlets. The doors close after lunch at 2:30pm, but no one gets kicked out, since Station F workers still have access to the facilities. Stock up on those cookies and enjoy the airy workspace until the next wave of diners arrives around 6PM. With live music and DJs at night, the space tends to stay open well past midnight (although the food reportedly runs out well before that).
La Felicità – Station F
55 boulevard Vincent Auriol, 13th (M° Bibliothèque François Mitterand or Chevaleret)
Open lunch noon-2:30pm (building remains open, no more entry) and dinner from 6pm. Be sure to check their Facebook page before you go, in case of any early-in-the-business closures.