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Nice

By Ann | April 19, 2011

hotel regina

Ah, Nice — it is very, very nice. (How many times do you think that pun has been made in the history of the world?) I felt very lucky to spend a long weekend in this Côte d’Azur town by the sea, soaking up the Mediterranean light, skipping stones across the sea and eating socca. What’s that, you ask? Read on…

socca

Nice has its own cuisine and while salade Niçoise plays a role (though I didn’t have any), perhaps the most beloved food in town is socca, a flat chick pea pancake snack.

socca delivery  socca de thérèze

At Thérèze’s stand in the Cours Saleya market, the socca is baked elsewhere and delivered by motorbike. I had to fight for the last two portions, but the crisp-edged, sponge-centered pancake was worth the battle, especially when crowned with a jaunty sprinkle of pepper. We gobbled it down by the waterfront.

lou pilha leva rené socca

Of course, I couldn’t stop there, not once I had the taste of socca in my maw. We sampled two more: Lou Pilha Leva (photo left) was disappointing, flabby, cold, and over-salted (to be fair, Thérèze’s socca was also too salty). The clear winner was Chez René Socca (photo right), where I stood in line for 15 minutes and was rewarded by finger-stinging bits of pancake, the crisp surface giving way to a delicate creamy chick pea tenderness. The accompanying glass of rosé wasn’t bad either.

pissaladière

I’ve had pissaladière, Provence’s onion-topped pizza before, but this version at Restaurant de Gésù was among the best I’ve tasted. The onions were sweetly softened and the bread base had a pleasant chewy cakiness.

raviolis

Just when I thought I knew Italian cuisine… it turns out raviolis are Niçois as well. These handmade beauties at Oliviera were filled with meat and topped with a lively tomato sauce. The restaurant doubles as an olive oil shop, and the kindly owner is knowledgeable about his wares, matching different oils to different dishes, like a sommelier might pair wine.

assiette de printemps

It is very, very difficult to conduct an internet search of restaurants in Nice — there are a lot of “nice restaurants” out there! But our Guide Routard (which I’ve transposed in my mind as “rude guitar”) suggested Oliviera, and that was where that I ate my favorite meal of the trip. It was nothing special — just a plate of verdant spring vegetables: artichokes, slim and snappy asparagus, tender young fava beans, and arugula. All was bright and raw, garnished tout simplement with curls of Parmesan, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of special olive oil from the Luberon. I left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated — and clutching a bottle of that special olive oil. Nice is very, very nice indeed.

Thérèze (socca)
Look for a red awning in the Cours Saleya market. Beware: She stops serving at 1pm.

Lou Pilha Leva
10 rue du Collet
tel: 04 93 13 99 08

Chez René Socca
2 rue Miralhetti
tel: 04 93 92 05 73

Restaurant du Gésù
1 place du Gésù
tel: 04 93 62 26 46

Oliviera
8 bis rue du Collet
tel: 04 93 13 06 45

Topics: Dining Out and About, Voyages | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Nice”

  1. Sweet Freak Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Je suis jalouse. I hope you’re enjoying the markets, the restos and the sun, mon amie! (Sounds like you are.) xo

  2. Shannon Faris Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    As always, your adventures make me drool. I experimented a bit with making socca last summer…with disastrous results. Maybe a little on-site research is needed!

  3. Voie de Vie Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Aussi, je suis jalouse. :) I would love to try some of that socca (with the rose, of course!).

  4. Camille Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Nice was one of my favorite places to visit in 2000-2001. I haven’t been since, but it always conjures up happy memories.

  5. CK Says:
    April 20th, 2011 at 6:32 am

    A particular challenge was doing restaurant research online ahead of our trip. Can you imagine how many people search for “nice restaurants” in, say, Detroit or Oklahoma City? But — with the socca and the fabulous ravioli, we were in clover!

  6. Janice from Fresno Says:
    April 20th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I spent a fantastic month in the Cote d’Azur several years ago. The food is different with more olive oil and Mediterranean influence, and the sun is glorious. The rocky beaches are weird for a Californian, but the life style, art, and vistas are wonderful. And socca, the best!

  7. Ann Says:
    April 21st, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Sweet Freak — It was lovely! I only wish I’d been brave enough to dip my toes in the Mediterranean, but it was icy!

    Shannon — Oh, yes! On-site research is definitely necessary. The best socca seemed to be baked in a wood-burning oven, so unless you have one of those (if so, can I come live with you?) I wonder if you could achieve the high temperatures necessary to form the crust.

    Voie de Vie — It was a magical combination!

    Camille — It’s such a pretty town. I loved the Cimiez high above the sea, too. I hope you have a chance to go back soon!

    CK — And the pissaladière!

    Janice — Rocky beaches ARE weird, aren’t they? I wondered how anyone could be comfortable sunbathing on a bed of stones!

  8. Nicola Smyth Says:
    April 21st, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I am soooo hungry……..

  9. Michel Says:
    April 24th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Sounds like a very yummy weekend. Chez René Socca
    is where I have heard the best is made so seems your experience mirror the recommendations I have received.

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