Yes, she can see you out there, taking pictures of her restaurant. The area is not busy; tourists, with cameras, standing in the middle of the intersection outside – they stand out.
Inside, does not mind. She just wishes a few more of you would venture inside, to sample her fine Italian cuisine. I did, on a recent visit to Paris, and I can say the experience and the food were well worth it.
If you are lucky enough to meet this delightful woman, and if the restaurant is not too busy, she will, with a certain amount of amusement, answer questions about the movie that was filmed here.
The restaurant, called Da Stuzzi, is much better known by its movie name: Cafe Debussy, the mind-blowing sidewalk cafe in the hit movie, “Inception.”
“Surely you did not come all the way from America to just see this place,” she said, smiling.
No, I answered, but I did come all the way across Paris, just to check out the location (see my earlier column on where and how Inception was filmed). The inviting atmosphere, however, tempted me to come inside.
Da Stuzzi is modeled after an Italian trattoria (“traiteur” in French): good food, reasonable prices, eat in, take out. ingrid does most of the cooking (personally, she prefers Thai and Morrocan cuisine, when cooking for herself).
Da Stuzzi is open for lunch, from 11:30 to 4:30, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday and Friday, she stays open until 7:30 p.m. in hopes attracting a dinner crowd from the surrounding neighborhood. Although all the food is available for take-out, she says the locals won’t do it. “They won’t eat prepared foods in their homes,” she said. They either go out for food, or if they stay home, they make their own.
“It is a quiet area, maybe a little too quiet for the restaurant business,” she said with a sigh, looking at trays of leftover food from a Wednesday lunch.
Don’t you get crowds of people coming here, because of the movie?
“No,” she said, sighing again. “They did not use the name of the restaurant in the movie. They changed it. And then they did not mention us in the credits.”
Apparently it was believed, or at least hoped, that they would.
One of the movie’s major premieres (several were held, around the world) was held in Paris, not far from Da Stuzzi. Did anyone from Da Stuzzi attend?
“They did not give me a ticket,” she said. But she does not ask for tickets, or fame, or anything else from the filmmakers. She only wants the little traiteur to do well – to have customers, to buy her tasty food, to make a living.
Has she seen the movie yet? I asked.
“No,” she giggled, “Now, I won’t go.”
She agreed to let Da Stuzzi be used for the filming because the crew told her “Inception” was going to be “a small art-house film”.
“I like that kind of movie,” she said. “I don’t like the blockbusters. I guess ‘Inception’ has been something like a blockbuster, yes?”
Um, yeah, kinda: Released in late July, the film had, by the end of September, made close to $300 million in the U.S. alone; over $600 million worldwide. It’s already ranked in the top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time. That’s memorable.
But the filmmakers left little for Da Stuzzi to remember them by. The “Cafe Debussy” facade that was put on the building was removed after filming; so were the bistro tables and chairs.
She doesn’t even have a copy of the movie poster. She does, however, have a postcard-sized photo she can show you of two scenes of the filming at her restaurant. Director Christopher Nolan is in one; stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page are in the other.
So, I wondered, is she seen anywhere in the movie – an extra in a background shot, perhaps?
“No, I’m not in it; I wasn’t even in town,” she laughed. “I was in Corsica.”
It is just such a quintessentially Parisian sidewalk cafe, that some people can’t believe it wasn’t a real place. Many intrepid explorers have gone in search for it.
The filmmakers found Da Stuzzi while scouting for quaint, quiet areas they could close off for filming, without causing too much traffic backlash. Rue Cesar Franck is in a quiet maze of small streets, just off busy Avenue de Suffren.
It is about a mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower (a block from the fortress-like UNESCO headquarters), and close to Place de Breteuil. Metro stops: Segur or Sevres-Lecourbe.
The director also wanted an area with classic French architecture. They got that, for sure; the corner building that Da Stuzzi is housed in was built in 1904. A cornerstone says it was built by “A. Raisin”. Da Stuzzi has been here for three years now; a small market occupied the site before that.
Ironically, much of this area was also used in John Frankenheimer’s classic car chase sequence in the 1998 Robert DeNiro movie, “Ronin“. So too were areas, such as the Bir-Hakeim Bridge along the River Seine. The chase scenes were filmed up and down Rue Bouchut, which intersects with Rue Cesar Franck (note the monument in the middle of the intersection with Rue Valentin Hauy). Maybe Frankenheimer’s crew actually did the original scouting work for these locations, and they were re-used by Christopher Nolan’s crew? Who knows.
Either way, “they were filming for 12 days during August,” Ingrid explained.
Did Da Stuzzi lose, or gain, business during the shooting? Was it able to remain open?
“No, it is always closed for August,” she said. August is typically the month Parisians abandon the city en masse, for their annual vacations. (Parisians say it is too hot here; but, ironically, they usually vacation in even hotter places – like the sizzling Mediterranean beaches.)
I wondered if she wasn’t a little curious about the part Da Stuzzi played in the movie. Would she care that the movie’s special effects department blew the place apart (even if it was only with compressed air and confetti, not real explosives)? Or that they bent the surrounding streets and rows of buildings back, like pretzels, over upon themselves? I decided not to ask. But I did promise to come back the next day, again for lunch.
Turns out, it really was an ideal place for lunch in Paris.
September 29, 2010