Wine: Cave Caprioglio is a 3rd-generation family wine shop, coming up on a century, that takes you back in time with an authentic ambience, wine-cask smells and their friendly advice and service. The cave features a great selection of carefully chosen inexpensive wines all the way up to the grand cru’s, but the locals still bring in their empties to have them filled from the giant casks on the wall.
Another charming wine shop is La Cave de la Tour, on the other end of the Old Town. This one has also been a fixture in Vieux Nice life since the ’40′s, and features a wine bar so you can sally up to the wine casks and try before you buy. They also do a nice little home cooked lunch…
Fresh Pasta: Two steps from Cave Caprioglio are two fantastic fresh pasta shops: La Mason Baral has been making fresh raviolis since 1892; look to the blackboard for the daily selection, which ranges from traditional Nicoise to almost avant garde, like almond and green olive ravioli.
Directly across the street is Maison Tosello (since 1816), specializing in big fat tortelloni (large wrapped pasta packages stuffed with salmon, for instance), cannelloni, and fresh fettuccini and linguini. Mason Baral is open mornings only, but Tosello is open all day. Choose your pasta or ravioli, then your sauce, then your cheese: one-stop-shopping for a meal that will take 5 minutes to prepare. Don’t bother with dry pasta when you can have wonderful fresh pasta!
Ice cream: Fenocchio is the magical and famous ice cream stand is in place Rossetti, with amazing flavors that you will find nowhere else such as rose, jasmine… rosemary, tomato/basil… ginger, lychee, rhubarb… (but I advise to avoid the rose/peppercorn.) The flavorings are all-natural and made locally. Don’t be fooled by the nearby imitation Pinocchio, blatantly trying to siphon off Fenocchio’s business. Local tip: Fenocchio has a second location 1 minute away with half the crowd: turn up the hill and take the first right on Benoit Bunico, then walk 3 short blocks toward Cours Saleya.
Another great gelato stand is Crema di Gelato on rue de la Perfecture: it has a much smaller selection, but much better prices and portions, and if you like a really creamy gelato, this is for you.
Produce: Shop the local-producers side of Cours Saleya Market, across from the church, where you’ll find the old authentic farmers, straight out of Pagnol. This is also where you find the specialty and organic (bio) farmers. The best deals are after the cannon goes off at noon, when they start grouping things in pans which then go for 1.50€ or 2€.
Poulet Roti: Don’t miss the classic French rotisserie-chicken: my vote for the most tender, juicy and delicious is found at the Arab Bucherie for 4.30€; to find it go up the hill from Place Rossetti, then left on rue Droite …then just follow your nose. They are open ‘til 8 every night, even on Sundays.
Fish: There is a daily morning fish market that has been running for centuries around the fish fountain at place Saint- François in the Old Town (just follow the seagulls to find it), but my favorite is actually on the other side of Nice, at the Marche de la Liberation. Take the tram and get off at Vernier, then just cross the street to find this dazzling morning fish market. To really go to the source, you can also take a velo bleu and head down the Promenade towards the airport, where you’ll find a few fishermen’s stands on the seaside behind the Boules courts. You can’t beat that for fresh!
Butcher: Boucherie Saint-François (near the Old Town fish market) is worth the wait in the everpresent line. The buchers wrap up your order, jab a number through the bag, and toss the whole thing on to a conveyer belt that pelts the poor cashier with everyone’s meat order. Remember your number (in French), as she’ll call it out when it’s time to pay. Don’t miss this butcher at Christmas time, when it’s all decked out with feathered pheasants and a whole wild boar in the front!
Feel like trying something different? There is a horse butcher in Old Nice, just a few steps off Cours Saleya behind the church.
Or… try porchetta: a whole pig that has been hollowed out and then re-stuffed with chunks of meat, fat, local herbs and lots of garlic before being roasted on a spit, then sliced to order. You’ll see one just past Place Saint-François toward place Garibaldi.
Olives: Head to the Marche Cours Saleya for several olive merchants with an array of choices, and be sure to try the tiny but flavorful Nicoise olives that cost almost nothing here, but are very exclusive anywhere else. My favorite is the ‘youpi’ olive man, who will happily let you sample. Another, near Place Garibaldi, has amazing sardine-stuffed green olives with onions, which are deceptively delicious.
Olive Oils: drop by Oliviera on rue de Collet to do a tasting and let Nadim share his passion for the varied and delicious olive oils of the region. Another well-known olive oil boutique is Nicolas Alziari at 14 rue Francois de Paul near the Opera.
Bakeries: You’ll find the best croissants and pain au chocolate at Au Ble d’Azur on the corner of rue de Marche and rue Moulin… I especially like their almond croissants. This is one of the few bakeries that also has little outside tables and makes coffee and cappuccinos.
Another favorite bakery is Espuna with their specialty lemon-raspberry tart, in front of the church on the corner of rue Droite and rue du Jesus. Another find (but more expensive) is La Fougasserie on Benoit Bunico near Cours Saleya.
Chocolates: The oldest and most beautiful is Maison Auer, across from the Opera, where the traditional fabrication of fine chocolate and candied fruit has been passed down from father to son since 1820. And the newest and flashiest is LAC Chocolatier, on rue de la Prefecture.
Have you ever tried Absinthe? Illegal for the last 70-odd years, this strong and semi-hallucinatory drink inspired the most creative Parisian minds of the early 20th century, including Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Modigliani, Hemingway and Toulouse-Lautrec. Nowadays the active ingredient in the ‘green fairy’ is tightly controlled, it is once again legal, and has enjoyed a popular resurgence in the last 10 years. There is a specific way to drink it, with water poured in over a sugar cube on a special spoon, or even flamed. Try some at the Absinthe boutique on 7 rue de Collet, or you can pick up a bottle at Cave Caprioglio. Better yet, go to Antibes where there is an Absynthe Bar!
Other, (non-psychotropic!) liquours can be found at Trois Etoiles, near Place Saint-François, which they display their delicious wares in giant glass casks. The beautifully packaged bottles make great gifts.
And for fresh roasted coffee beans, the Brulerie des Cafés Indien roasts their own… it’s worth going by for the smell alone! Mostly a bean-seller, they also have fine teas in bulk as well as a little coffee bar so you can try before you buy. Find them on rue Ste Réparate and also on Rue Pairolière.
Photo credits: All photos by Best of Nice Blog except: Fish Market courtesy of Mary Payne; Porchetta by Patrice Semeria, Boulangerie by Welleschik, and Absinthe by Eric Litton, all three licensed under Creative Commons
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