Since opening in 2019, Les Petites Canailles has become a favorite for locals and a destination for wine tourists exploring the dining scene in downtown Paso Robles, Calif. The restaurant’s owners, Courtney and Julien Asseo, were both born into food and wine; Courtney comes from a family of butchers, Julien is the son of winemakers. For years, the two worked in restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, including Wine Spectator Grand Award winners Joël Robuchon Restaurant and Restaurant Guy Savoy. In time, the couple made their way to Paso Robles to open their own establishment, named in tribute to their three children. (Les Petites Canailles means “the little rascals” in French.)
Wine director and general manager Alexander Wolfe has quickly grown the wine program from 100 to 400 selections in just a few years, earning Les Petites Canailles its Best of Award of Excellence in 2022. The list centers on Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and California, showing off some of the best that Paso Robles and the surrounding Central Coast have to offer (including an extensive selection of Rhône variety bottlings from Saxum and Sine Qua Non) while highlighting wineries Julien got to know while growing up in France. Rarer gems are featured in “Lara’s Library,” a selection dedicated to a now-deceased friend of the restaurant; this includes bottles from Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Montrose.
The list’s “Family” section highlights the couple’s close-knit circle of winemaking friends and relatives, including an impressive collection from Julien’s parents, Stephan and Beatrice Asseo, the proprietors of Stephan winery and its L’Aventure estate, as well as Paso wines from Julien’s brothers-in-law.
Julien, the executive chef, prepares an ever-changing, farm-to-table menu that mixes classically French and international influences. Julien cooks leeks, a French staple, on the restaurant’s plancha (a flat-top metal grill used in Spanish cooking) and serves them with herb vinaigrette and pine nuts, while he complements his moules frites with ‘nduja, a traditional Calabrian sausage that is spicy and soft. Guests can also enjoy the likes of prime hanger steak tartare, roasted Alaskan halibut with zaalouk (a Moroccan dish of cooked eggplant and tomato), Burgundy escargot risotto, a mushroom “Bolognese” with pappardelle and a caviar service with shirred eggs. A selection of “butcher cuts,” served with a choice of sauces and sides, changes regularly. A five-course “Trust Us” tasting menu (or a vegetarian version) is also available, with optional wine pairings.