A taste of Chez Tante Farida

With the care of a good aunt [tante], Farida fills her small restaurant with homemade, traditional Algerian snacks, dishes, bread and pastries

Leaving the wide sidewalks and the big brasserie terraces of the boulevard de Charonne, the beginning of the rue de Bagnolet is narrow and the buildings are low. Among the delicatessens and fast-food joints of all origins, there is a small restaurant where the welcome is homey, or rather, like that at an auntie’s house. This is how the regulars greet the owner and chef Farida, who prepares traditional Algerian snacks, dishes, bread and pastries with care and love.

“The dishes I offer are ones you’d eat at your mother’s house. So if you can’t go to your mom’s, you can come to Tata [Auntie] Farida’s to eat,” exclaims Farida, who cooks according to the recipes and techniques that her mother and grandmother taught her.

Farida grew up with one foot in Algeria and one in the 20th; she lived with her older brothers at her grandmother’s in Bordj Bou Arreridj, while her parents and three younger sisters lived in the Amandiers neighborhood of the 20th. In 2004, she moved to Paris with her husband and five children to be closer to her elderly parents, still in Amandiers. She worked odd jobs and then became a childcare assistant, a passion for her. In her free time, she made Algerian pastries for events. In her 50s, frustrated by short work contracts at the hospital and encouraged by her children, she decided to pursue her second passion and opened her own restaurant in 2019.

She found a former kebab shop, at 13 rue de Bagnolet, in a “very kind, diverse” neighborhood that she had known since she was a teenager — her uncle lived there. The small restaurant, with a takeaway window on the street and a few tables at the back of a narrow room, lends itself to street food, Farida does not limit herself to that.

“It’s rare to find a restaurant like mine in Algeria because I offer a little bit of everything: bread, pastries, street food and full meals, to take away or eat here, for everyday or for a party,” she says, adding with a smile: « When I do something, I do it all the way! »

Every Monday through Saturday, Farida prepares seven kinds of pastries (“the ones people in the neighborhood know”) and four kinds of bread: matlouh; khobz dar; kesra (often called a ‘galette’); and msemmen (called a ‘crêpe’). The latter two “are also eaten filled like a sandwich or a crêpe, savory or sweet,” in which case msemmen is called ‘mhadjeb’, explains Farida. Stuffed with stewed vegetables, ground meat, chicken or cheese, for example, and reheated on a griddle, these crispy, on-the-go options are popular among the neighborhood’s students and workers.

In her basement kitchen, Farida also prepares a selection of semolinas and salads (carrot-cumin, mechouia, macedonia, etc.) and a rotation of soups, tagines, couscous and other plats du jour. It’s “often an older clientele, people who are nostalgic, who come to sit and eat these dishes. When they tell me ‘Tata, your cooking reminds me of my mother’s’ or ‘it’s as if I had returned to Algeria’, that makes me happy,” she says.

In addition to pleasing others, Farida says she wants to “break the stereotype of greasy oriental cuisine, of overly sweet oriental pastries. This stereotype hurts my heart. I am not for the greasy, salty, overly sweet. I’m very careful with ingredients.” When she can’t find an ingredient that suits her in France, she imports it from Algeria, like the wheat to make chorba frik: “I buy the real frik from home. It’s prepared by women who harvest the wheat before it matures and cook it over a wood fire. This gives the soup a real smoky taste that you can’t imitate.”

After four years in business, Farida remembers her difficult start during Covid: “People in the neighborhood were very concerned, very supportive, and I will never forget that!” Today, she  is proud to have her restaurant listed in several guides and to have been able to hire two employees. As for the future, Farida, as the neighborhood’s caring auntie, would like to offer “more choices for vegetarians, and for young people who don’t have a big budget. And I’d also like to offer a delivery service for people who work remotely and for seniors who can no longer get around.”

Chez Tante Farida
13 rue de Bagnolet
Métro Alexandre Dumas