Nice is world-famous for its Bay of Angels, colourful facades, old town, sunshine, palm trees and pebble beaches.
But to visit Nice without sampling the cuisine is to miss out on a key part of the city’s identity. In fact, since 2019, Nice’s cuisine has been listed as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
Although it may share certain similarities with Italian cooking, they are both are rather different and should not be confused. Nice’s culinary tradition has been passed down through many generations and promises to make your mealtimes a pleasure… although you might put on a little extra weight.
Nice’s cuisine is rich in specialities but they all have one thing in common: they’re delicious!
Without attempting to encompass the many dishes you will find, let me give you a brief tour of the most frequently savoured delicacies by locals and tourists alike:
A culinary speciality made with bread dough, sautéed onions, olive oil and anchovies. Yes, we love to cook with anchovies in Nice!
The pissaladière is a bit like a slice of pizza, or portion of quiche. Often served with the aperitif or as a starter and great for sharing with friends. It’s also a good option for a quick lunch on the go.
However, it is not a dish in its own right.
If you’re feeling peckish and want something savoury, you should try it, especially since it’s not hard to find: most boulangeries sell it.
If you fancy a sandwich while you’re in Nice, you definitely need to try a Pan Bagnat. This sandwich is made with bread, olive oil (pan bagnat means “bathed bread”), vegetables, tuna, hard-boiled egg and anchovies.
If I want a quick bite to eat out and about, it’s clearly my go-to sandwich.
What’s more, I strongly advise you to enjoy one on the beach by the Mediterranean. You’ll see, it tastes even better!
Ideal for a quick bite while strolling around Nice’s old town. This large, thin, chickpea-based wafer is baked in an oven (preferably wood-fired) and eaten in small portions with your hands and without needing to feel hungry. I love it!
Daube Niçoise (served with gnocchi or ravioli)
Braised beef simmered in red wine and served usually with potato gnocchi or ravioli. Considered Nice’s most emblematic hot dish.
Petits Farcis Niçois (stuffed vegetables)
As the name suggests, these are Mediterranean vegetables (tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, aubergines, and mainly onions) filled with stuffing. Although it could be a main course, in Nice it is often served as a starter.
Tourte de Blettes (Swiss Chard Tart)
Both sweet and savoury versions are available. While both are very tasty, I definitely prefer a sweet chard pie. Actually, it’s one of my favourite desserts. The cooked chards are mixed with pine nuts and raisins.
If you don’t want to make one yourself, you can easily find both sweet and savoury versions in artisanal bakeries.
La salade niçoise
This world famous salad is widely available on restaurant menus both in France and abroad. However, the people of Nice will usually explain that outside the region, they rarely resemble a true Niçoise salad.
The list of ingredients is very specific and you can’t make mistakes! For a good Niçoise salad, you need tomatoes, green peppers, garlic, spring onions, broad beans, celery, hard-boiled eggs, anchovy fillets, tuna, Niçoise black olives, all drizzled with olive oil.
If you see potatoes or, worse, green beans, don’t bother!
The Cuisine Nissarde label
Several years ago, the city of Nice launched the “Cuisine Nissarde” label.
This distinction is awarded to the region’s restaurants with recognised respect for the traditions of Nice cuisine. The label is awarded (and sometimes revoked) every year and if you see it on the door of a restaurant then it’s a sign that you can sample most of the local specialities prepared with traditional methods and recipes.
You can find restaurants that boast this label on the website of the city of Nice tourist information office.
The best places to eat in Nice
Besides the addresses mentioned below, there are many places where you can eat Niçoise cuisine in Nice.
As I’ve already mentioned, Niçoise cuisine offers a wide range of dishes, some of them hot and requiring a long preparation time, like Daube Niçoise, and others that can be eaten on the go.. You don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant to try this gastronomy, which is above all popular and homely.
Here are some of my tips and useful addresses:
- Pick up a portion of socca at Socca Tram, Socca du Cours, Chez Pipo or at Roi de la Socca near the harbour.
- Treat yourself to a hearty Daube at Chez Acchiardo or Chez Cané
- Try the sweet Swiss chard pie from the “Au bon Pain” boulangerie in Rue Saint Philippe
- Buy your ravioli or gnocchi at Maison Barale, an Old Nice institution.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the locals where they buy their pan bagnat when they want a quick lunch.
Above all, don’t leave Nice without trying its gastronomy – it would be a real shame!