No visit to the French Riviera is complete without sampling some of the local Nice specialties.
In Nice, there is a mix of unique flavors only available in this region – traditional Provençal and Niçoise foods with a heavy Italian influence. Being on the Mediterranean, seafood and fresh ingredients play an integral role in the tasty regional specialties.
From mussels and tuna to olives and eggplant, once you sample the local fare you’ll see why Nice is a favorite gastronomical city.
10 Must Eat Foods in Nice, France
1. Socca – A quintessential street food of Nice, socca is thin, crusty chickpea pancake with a soft interior. It’s cooked in a wood oven on a large round steel plate. I like it with a bit of pepper, but the kids just dig right in. It’s one of their favorite after school snacks. It also pairs well with beer for those that want a break from wine. Of course it would pair well with wine if you wanted a break from beer!
2. Salade Niçoise – My all time favorite meal in Nice! The classic Niçoise salad is a fabulous and filling salad with mesclun (a kind of mix salad), tomatoes, radish, onion, black olives, hard boiled eggs, tuna, and anchovies usually served with a olive oil. No ranch dressing here!
3. Le Pan Bagnat – Take your Salade Niçoise to go, kind-of. You’ll find all the fixings of a Salade Niçoise stuffed into a tasty sandwich. The bread is always round and usually whole wheat. Sometimes you will see white bread sandwiches at a bakery as well.
4. Pissaladière – A pizza, but not a pizza. This tart is topped with onion, anchovies and olives. It’s an intense dish that’s worth a try. You can grab it from most boulangeries for a couple euros.
5. Les Petits Farcis – A classic Niçoise specialty takes vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini and stuffs them with ground meat, garlic and bread crumbs. These can be served hot or cold.
6. La Daube Niçoise – Great when you need a hearty meal, the Daube Niçoise features slow cooked beef. The beef is cooked for several hours in red wine with onion, carrots and herbs. The tender beef is served with pasta.
7. Ratatouille – Did you know Ratatouille originated in Nice? I didn’t until we were invited to dinner at the home of French friends, one of which was born right in Old Town Nice. I was never a huge fan of Ratatouille until it was prepared for us here. It’s become one of my favorite dishes. I’ve even ordered it at a couple restaurants .
The ingredients can vary but it a mix of herbs and vegetables such as bay leaves, thyme, marjoram, onion, garlic, carrot, onion, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini. Ratatouille is often served as a side. I’ve had it accompanying both chicken and veal.
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8. Raviolis Niçois – If you love ravioli as much as I do, don’t miss a chance to have the dish here in Nice. With a delicious filling of braised beef (daube de boeuf), finely chopped chard and a dry mountain cow’s cheese such as parmesan it makes a fantastic dish.
9. Soupe au pistou – A popular Provençal dish of bean soup enriched with pistou. Pistou is made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil and is somewhat similar to pesto without pine nuts.
10. Rosé Wine – You can’t visit Nice in the summer without sampling rosé wine. An afternoon rosé is a must! It’s a classic accompaniment to every summer meal in Nice. Plus there is no need to over spend to get a quality product. Local rosé is inexpensive and best dry (in my opinion).
Not Niçoise Cuisine But Our Other Favorites in Nice –
Market Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – Nice’s climate makes it a great place to grow fruits and vegetables . Do some market shopping in Nice during your visit to find fresh oranges, apples, tomatoes, zucchini, and broccoli. Pick up some items for a snack or to make a picnic lunch.
Gelato from Fenocchio’s – Okay, this isn’t the best gelato I’ve ever had but it’s good. And you can try some pretty bizarre flavors. Cactus anyone? For those not in an adventurous mood, you can get the standard chocolate and vanilla as well as more “tame” flavors such as rose and lavender. Avocado, olive, cactus and chestnut are just a few other strange flavors served at the three locations around Old Town.
K did a Periscope and let people vote on which flavor to try. Cactus won. He wasn’t able to get past the first bite 🙂
Olives – Olives are a huge part of Mediterranean cuisine. You can’t miss all the fresh olives, olive oil and olive bread when on the French Riviera. I particularly enjoy the olives with garlic (ali) purchased at the fresh market.
Moules et Frites or Mussels and Fries – This would not be considered Provençal or Niçoise as it originated in Belgium, but it’s sold just about everywhere in Nice. There are several ways to prepare the mussels but the most common is Moules marinière made with white wine, shallots, parsley and butter. Dip your fries in the sauce too – YUM!
Tarte Pomme – The apple tart is a fabulous dessert in France. It’s another dish my Niçoise friend prepared for us. The dessert is made with a flaky crust topped with a vanilla custard and thin sliced apples. The tart is then baked until lightly browned. Derrick has even made the dish for us a few times at home. It’s best made with real vanilla beans.
Crêpe – My kids love having a Crêpe with Nutella. Lucy also enjoys having apple (pomme) slices in her crepe but K pretty much always requests Nutella. Although Crêpes orgionated in the Brittany region, they seem to be a favorite of all my kids friends.
Une Baguette – You can’t come to Nice without getting a French Baguette. The “french” baguettes served in the US can’t even come close to those served in France. We love the Normal and Traditional varieties (baguette tradition or baguette à l’ancienne), but if you have time you should try other types during your visit as well.
A bit of baguette education – True French baguettes will have a golden crust that cracks a little when squeezed and holey center. To keep with the traditions of the baguette, the Décret Pain was established in 1993. The law states that traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises where they are sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They can’t contain additives or preservatives, therefore they go stale within 24 hours. With 2 growing kids we usually don’t have any leftover, so it’s not a problem 🙂
Un Croissant – Another food the French do better than any other country is the croissant. These should be golden in color, with a flaky outside and soft, airy, buttery inside. The croissant should almost melt in your mouth but make a huge mess with each bite. Just go with it and be ready to brush off your clothes after breakfast.
In addition to the traditional croissants, we also suggest the Pain au chocolat (a croissant filled with chocolate), Croissant aux Amandes (an almond croissant using day old coissants, topped with sliced almonds and powdered sugar and filled with an almond paste) and pan of croissant abricot (an apricot croissant that you can usually only find first thing in the morning).
Cake of Kings – If you’re visiting in January, make sure to try the Gâteau des Rois. Read more about these Provençal Christmas Traditions if you’re visiting during the holiday season.
These 10 Local Nice Specialties (plus my add-ons) should be on the list of any food lover when visiting this beautiful city along the Cote d’Azur.
What are your must eat Foods in Nice, France?
You can also find more information on Niçoise cuisine including some recipes here.
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