By now, most people will be familiar with Big Mamma, an Italian restaurant group which has grown from a start-up into an empire thanks to its affordable menu, extravagant presentation of dishes (designed no doubt for Instagram), and gorgeous interior design. Its imprint on the Paris food scene has flourished since the first outpost East Mamma in 2015 – the group now has seven spaces in Paris, one in Lille, and has recently become the ‘must-visit’ hotspot in London with the openings of Gloria Trattoria and Circolo Popolare which I’m yet to visit.
I recently headed to Paris on a work trip and found myself at La Felicità, the group’s latest Parisian project, a mammoth food court – 4,500 sqm to be exact – in the even larger Station F complex, the world’s biggest start-up campus. Fret not, this section of the elaborate campus is open to everyone, glimmering in colourful fairy lights with mismatched furniture, overlapping Moroccan-style rugs and foliage-strewn repurposed train carriages . If you’re more interested in the tech-side of Paris, have a read of my feature ‘Paris: Start-up capital’ here.
The Big Mamma group sources its products from Italy, and is known for its fresh pasta dishes served in cast iron pans, creamy Pugliese burrata, Neapolitan pizzas, and supersize tiramisu portions served directly from the tray – not to mention their glam cocktails. Eating at one of their outlets is all about the experience, which begins with the playful names of dishes, including the likes of “Poeuf Daddy”, “Burrastar is born” and “Kale Middleton.”
Unlike its trattorias, which more or less offer the same menus (no complaints here), with variations on pizza toppings and pasta sauces, La Felicità has eight different stations (mind the pun), nine chefs and three bars. There’s no table service but instead an app, fitting with its tech surroundings, with which you can pay and order your chosen dishes. While us British are known for queuing, the app takes this out of the equation and notifies you when your order is ready – mine was particularly speedy given that I arrived for lunch at noon on the dot, when the kitchens open.
I’ve had my fair share of Big Mamma pasta and pizza, so used this opportunity to try something new and summery. Sat upon vintage floral cushions amidst start-uppers working on their soon-to-be successful projects, I devoured a massive salmon poke bowl from Big Bowls Train, a kitchen located in one of those jazzed-up train wagons mentioned earlier. The sushi salmon-topped quinoa bowl (€13) was delicious, filled with guacamole, beetroot houmous, miso-coated aubergine, pickled cucumber, pine nuts (yes, I’m a grown up according to Fleabag) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
La Felicità is a great addition to the sleepy 13th arrondissement, open daily even during Paris’ hibernation month of August. While it was a fleeting visit, I’ll definitely be back, if only to make a dent in the bottle-clad cocktail bar alongside a portion of the Pizza Carbolovalova.
5 Parvis Alan Turing, 75013 Paris; lafelicita.fr