Foodie Dishes Nice Is Known For
French food is famous around the world for its simple elegance. Yet, the cuisine of Nice is probably not what most people have in mind when they think of French food. Located on the southern coast, Nice’s food culture is unique, combining both Mediterranean and Provincial French influences.
The cuisine of Nice is a refreshing break from the heavy dishes that are more common in the northern parts of France. Inspired by seasonality and natural bounty of the land and sea, the people of Nice have developed a landmark cuisine that is part French, part Mediterranean, and wholly satisfying.
With its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants plus a variety of homegrown dishes, the Côte d’Azur is a great place for both fine dining and rustic fare while overlooking the Mediterranean. Niçoise cuisine is so tasty that city elders are bidding for UNESCO recognition of 90 key recipes including Salade Niçoise. Seasonal ingredients from the local markets play a key role.
Nice is also unique in that you don’t need to leave city limits to visit vineyards and wineries. With just 70 hectares under vine, AOC Bellet is among the smallest wine regions in France, and the only one found entirely within city limits. The two indigenous grape varieties, Braquet and Folle noire, predate the Riviera’s Roman occupation. Look out for early vintages in the tasting rooms of Cave Bianchi .
The pungent winter truffles found in restaurants like Terre du Truffes hail from foraging parties high the nearby Alpes-Maritimes’ oak forests. Less pricey seasonal fungi include chanterelles and ceps.
Between sunbathing on the glistening French Riviera beaches and exploring the winding streets, be sure to try these quintessential Nice dishes:
Socca (aka, Farinata)
Socca, which is also called farinata, is a flatbread made from chickpea flour. With plenty of protein and naturally gluten-free, socca is a great choice if you’re looking for a light meal or snack. Socca is traditionally made in copper dishes baked in wood-fired ovens. In Nice, you’ll see street vendors baking socca in sidewalk stalls. Pick up a slice to nibble on while you shop the open-air markets.
Farcis Niçois (aka, Les Petits Farcis)
“Niçois” means “of Nice” in French, and thus will come up in the names of many of these local dishes. Farcis niçois, also known as les petit farcis, are vegetables stuffed with ground beef and rice or couscous. Typically eaten during “la belle saison” (spring and summer), faris niçois make a light and refreshing meal. You can find farcis made from tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and even onion. Enjoy them as a light lunch on a hot day or as the vegetable course of a sumptuous Provincial dinner.
The most important ingredient in a pissaladière is anchovies, but don’t let that deter you. Salted anchovies from the Mediterranean have a wonderful savory flavor that’s much more palatable than the canned varieties. Pissaladière is thick bread dough topped with black olives, caramelized onions, and whole anchovies. Believe it or not, pissaladière was once the quintessential Nice breakfast. Today, you’re likely to find it as an appetizer at both lunch and dinner.
During your stay in Nice, you’ll see pan bagnat everywhere, from chic cafes to corner bakeries and food stalls on the streets. This sandwich is perfect for a delicious and filling lunch. Made on whole wheat pain d’campagne (“country bread”), pan bagnat contains anchovies or tuna, hard-boiled eggs, raw vegetables, and a drizzle of olive oil. Even though the French love mayonnaise, you should never ask for mayo with your pan bagnat. It’s olive oil or nothing!
Salade niçoise is famous well outside of France. Just because you’ve had salade niçoise before doesn’t mean you should skip the dish on your trip to Nice. After all, seasonality and fresh, local ingredients are at the heart of French cooking. The ingredients that make this complex and satisfying salad–anchovies, olives, eggs, olive oil, summer vegetables–are at their best in the south of France. Salade niçoise is great for either lunch or dinner. You’ll leave the table feeling like you’ve had a rich meal without being overly stuffed.
La Daube Niçoise
“Daube” is a meat stew that you can find anywhere in France. The typical ingredients of a daube are braised beef and fresh vegetables flavored with a bouquet garni. However, the people of Nice add three special ingredients to their stews: cremini mushrooms, brandy, and cayenne pepper. The earthy mushrooms, spicy pepper, and sweet local branda transform a simple, comforting stew into a rich culinary experience. La Daube Niçoise, paired with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, is the perfect dinner for a cool evening.
After the salade niçoise, ratatouille is probably the most famous dish from Nice. Remember the animated movie featuring the rat with big dreams of becoming a chef? This is the dish that inspired that film. This veggie stew consists of tomatoes, onions, courgettes, aubergines, and peppers all sautéed with garlic and herbes de Provence (a mixture of dried herbs, typically oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram, among others). True ratatouille is a no-nonsense vegetable stew that is filling enough to have as a meal on its own.
These delicious ravioli are traditionally made with leftover daube niçois. Using the already-stewed beef yields a tender and flavorful filling for the pasta, and the stew itself serves as the perfect sauce. However, it’s also common to find raviolis niçois filled with ground beef and the second essential ingredient, Swiss chard. As fresh pasta is always a treat, keep an eye out for this dish when you’re eating out in Nice’s many restaurants.
Soupe au pistou
“Pistou” is French for “pesto,” which comes in a dollop on top of this vegetable soup. Traditionally, soupe au pistou is made from water, not stock. This allows the flavors of the fresh vegetables to shine and makes this soup a reliable vegetarian-friendly choice. In addition to vegetables like carrots, summer squash, and potatoes, soupe au pistou also contains hearty beans and a burst of fresh herbs. Like a lot of typical Nice dishes, it’s light, healthy, and very flavorful.
Tourte de Blettes
Although this is a dessert tart, you wouldn’t think it, as its main ingredient is chard. The pastry that forms the top crust and base is made with olive oil and the filling consists of parmesan, pine nuts and, of course, chard. Sometimes a layer of apple is also included. Despite the fact that it’s heavily comprised of a vegetable, this dish is sweet, delicious and the perfect way to end a meal. Think of it as comparable to carrot cake or sweet potato pie!
If you want to make your experience tasting these tantalizing French foods as nice as possible, try them in Nice. Or stop by Nice’s incredible market and pick up some local delicacies. After all, authenticity is one of the best ways to ensure a delicious meal.