From Paris to Istanbul, we’ve got the dish on neighborhood restaurants where you’ll eat like a local.

By Alexandra MarshallAnya von Bremzen and Elizabeth Minchilli
April 05, 2012
Credit: Clay McLachlan

Oberkampf, Paris

This former haven for dive bars has become ground zero for high-end chefs with casual-bistro dreams—and the trend has spread across the 11th Arrondissement. At Au Passage (1 bis Passage St.-Sébastien; lunch for two $72), dishes bear the hallmarks of chef James Henry, who trained at Spring restaurant—simple ingredients innovatively combined, as in the sous vide trout with grated horseradish. The market-driven options at La Cave de L’Insolite (30 Rue de la Folie Méricourt; dinner for two $65), a natural-wine bar, range from traditional bistro (pot roast) to nouveau (prawn ravioli with a foamy bisque). Be patient; they’re perennially understaffed. Book far ahead at Septime (80 Rue de Charonne; dinner for two $143), where a former chef at L’Arpège is creating impeccable five-course tasting menus. A recent highlight: squid a la plancha with radish and black-olive juice. All the way out by Père Lachaise cemetery, Le Sot l’Y Laisse (pictured; 70 Rue Alexandre Dumas; lunch for two $110) has been revived by a Paul Bocuse–trained cook from Osaka who laces a classic French menu (pied de porc; poulet rôti) with Japanese flourishes (sashimi; tuna belly with wasabi pesto).

Monti: Rome

This cobblestoned foodie enclave in the centro storico has gotten even more delicious in the past year. Lucio Sforza’s Tuscan roots are front and center at L’Asino d’Oro (73 Via del Boschetto; dinner for two $78), where you’ll get revamped classics such as duck ravioli with a cardoon purée. Part cooking school, part bakery, Tricolore (126 Via Urbana; lunch for two $29) serves decadent sandwiches—try the poached organic eggs from cult purveyor Paolo Parisi, served with truffles on corn bread. Up the street, Aromaticus (134 Via Urbana; lunch for two $20) is where urban farmers go for their gardening needs. Plants and tools take up the front room, while a small kitchen in back serves herb-filled salads and baccalà carpaccio. A five-minute stroll away, Antico Forno ai Serpenti (122 Via dei Serpenti; lunch for two $15) resurrected the name of an 1800’s bakery that once occupied the marble-lined space. Grab a loaf of pane di campagna to go, or stay for a warm pumpkin-and-gorgonzola panino, one of the seasonal specials.

Karaköy, Istanbul

The city’s once-gritty ferry docks district has become a magnet for gastronauts. The pioneering Karaköy Lokantasi (37A Kemankeş Cad.; dinner for two $55) fired the first salvo when it moved to new digs decorated in tile and wrought iron. The vibrant mezes (smoked anchovies; chickpea-and-tahini pâté) are the perfect complement to anise-flavored raki. New York–trained chef Didem enol’s Lokanta Maya (35A Kemankeş Cad.; dinner for two $65) upped the ante with its neo-Scandinavian interior and small plates such as grilled octopus with sour-cherry vinegar and red onions. Legendary lunchtime fish spot Tarihi Karaköy Balikçisi (45 Tersane Cad.; dinner for two $90) has added a rooftop dinner space with vistas of the Bosporus and has line-caught fish prepared with precision. What to order? House-cured, sashimi-quality bonito and parchment-baked levrek (sea bass). At Ca’d’Oro (11 Bankalar Cad.; lunch for two $65), the pan-Mediterranean menu by chef Julien Maisonneuve, formerly of London’s Tom Aikens, is the draw. Sample smoked-cheese arancini and grilled artichokes with tarragon dressing while feasting your eyes on views of Istanbul’s imperial mosques.