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…

The yellow zucchini flower is a staple of Niçoise cuisine.  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, a quirky bare-bones place (no phone, no credit cards; you sit on stools and drink out of juice glasses) run by a former top chef as a way to get out of the rat race.  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 zuchinni flower, which is non-traditional (they are usually stuffed with meat), but absolutely delicious.

Socca is the traditional peasant snack; resembling a large chick pea pancake, it is best eaten right out of the oven with lots of pepper and glass of local rosé.   Try it from Theresa Socca every morning at the Cours Saleya market (best ambiance), at Chez Pipo in the Port (best socca), or from numerous socca stands around the old town.

Other must-trys include the Pissaladiére (a tart of caramelized onions) and the Tourte de Blettes, a delicious tart made with swiss chard (!), raisins and pinenuts. All these can be found at Lou Pilha Leva, which also has my favorite mussles with French fries (moules frites).

Other local products that I love: local goat cheeses (chevre), the tiny Niçoise olives (buy from the numerous olive stands in the Marche Cours Saleya, my favorite is the Youpi Olive man), and the terrific fresh ravioli shops around the Old Town.   For info on where to buy, click on Food Finds in the Old Town.

Another item that you probably don’t have at home is 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.   It’s an Italian specialty that’s served in large thin slices,  and whereas it can be kind of a gruesome sight sitting outside the butcher’s, just think of it as Italian-style lunch meat.

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 65€ (55€ in July) for a 4-5 hour tour that covers breakfast and lunch, offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

There are many restaurants in the Old Town serving Niçoise cuisine, but these are some of my favorites:

  • La Merenda is the foodies favorite for 4-star Niçoise served in a tiny hole-in-the-wall …made famous by its formerly Michelin-starred chef that decided to get out of the rat-race.  Go by in person to reserve: there’s no phone, no credit cards, no nonsense.  4 rue Raoul Bosio.
  • La Taca d’Oli at 35 rue Pairolière, for authentic Niçoise cuisine in a very local ambiance, since 1947.  04 93 80 70 93
  • L’Escalinada, is another favorite for Niçoise faire, with a great open-air ambiance with the tables perched on the diagonal stairway of its name.  22 rue Pairolière, 04 93 62 11 71

Photos credits: zucchini flower by fir0002, Nice socca by Myrabella, and porchetta by Patrice Semeria.  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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