Local Nice Specialties

The ubiquitous Salade Niçoise is Nice’s big claim to fame, but there are so many more local food specialties to discover…

Socca in Old NiceSocca is the traditional Nice peasant snack; resembling a large chick pea pancake, it is best eaten right out of the oven with lots of pepper and glass of rosé.   Try it from Theresa Socca every day at the Cours Saleya open-air market (best ambiance), at Chez Pipo in the Port (best socca), or from numerous socca stands around the old town… including Lou Pilha Leva. But don’t buy anything that is pre-plated… Socca must come straight off the pan.

Another local specialty is the Petits Farcis Niçoise, which means little stuffed vegetables Nice style… but attention: they are most decidedly not vegetarian and are stuffed with a savory mixture of meat and swiss chard before baking.

Other must-trys include the Pissaladière (a savory tart of caramelized onions, garnished with Niçoise olives, and anchovies) and the Tourte de Blettes, a delicious tart made with swiss chard, raisins and pine nuts. All these (plus socca) can be found at Lou Pilha Leva, a snack bar with long picnic tables at Place Centrale, which also has my favorite mussels with French fries (moules frites).  Niçoise street food in its natural habitat.

Nice also has its signature sandwich: the Pan Bagnat, which is basically a salad Nicoise on a bun, and the name means ‘bathed bread’ because the bread is ‘bathed’ in olive oil.   Chez Felix is king of the Pan Bagnat, from father to son since 1966.  They have just opened a tiny azur-blue stand at 16 boulevard Jean Jaures, and beside the Pan Bagnat they also have the other Nice staples like Petits Farcis, Pissaladiere… perfect for a picnic in the gardens right across the street.  Another favorite is the homemade snack bar Tutti Quanti (“when you want”) at 9 rue Mascoinat just off Place Rossetti.

The yellow zucchini flower is a staple of Niçoise cuisine in season.  The fleur de courgette is served one of two ways: battered and deep-fried to make a sort of flower fritter called a beignet, or farci style where the big blossom is stuffed with meat and spices and then baked.  The best place to try the fleur de courgette fritter is La Merenda with very simple Niçoise cuisine but of top quality: the pasta pesto absolutely sings, and the fleurs de courgettes are a dream.    If you want to try the stuffed variety, I recommend La Oliviera’s vegetarian stuffed zucchini flower, which is non-traditional (they are usually stuffed with meat), but absolutely delicious.

Other local products that I love:  the tiny Niçoise olives (buy from the numerous olive stands in the Marche Cours Saleya), local goat cheeses (chèvres), and the terrific fresh ravioli shops around the Old Town.  For info on where to find all this, click on Food Finds in the Old Town.

For a really fun crash-course in Niçoise cuisine, consider taking the Taste of Nice walking/tasting tour that will have you eating your way all through the town. Lots of food, fun history, great guides, fun and relaxed… and a bargain at only 85€ for a 4-5 hour tour that covers breakfast and lunch, offered at 10am daily except on Sundays.

Photos credits: zucchini flower by fir0002, Nice socca by Myrabella.  Photos licensed under creative commons.

Related Pages:  Best Cheap Eats in Nice, Nice’s Best Medium-priced restaurants, Food Finds in the Old Town, and  Where to Eat on Sunday and Monday in Nice when most restaurants are closed

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