Served piping hot and fresh from the traditional bread oven that lies behind the counter of the tiny family-run shop, I eagerly awaited my socca in Nice while people watching in the heart of the old town, all the while sipping on a glass of local rosé. Also known as Farinata, torta di Ceci, or cecina, this savoury dish is a must try while in the region, and not just because it’s one of the cheapest eats you can find in this Southern French city…
After all, when I asked around for Nice recommendations, one suggestion kept popping up over and over again: go and taste some of the local socca! And so, in the name of ‘market research’ (ha!), I made it my mission to frequent as many socca vendors as possible in Nice, in the hope of finding the best of this traditional dish in the centuries-old settlement.
What is Socca?
Wander around the streets of Old Town Nice for long enough, and you’ll soon enough discover that around almost every street corner, there’s yet another vendor selling socca. Socca is a kind of savoury crêpe that’s a Niçois speciality and this delicious dish pairs perfectly with Rosé wine, another regional delight.
Originating in Genoa, Northern Italy, this dish has since become synonymous with the French Riviera coastline. From Elba to Menton, you’ll now find the Farinata. Created from chickpea flour (meaning that it’s naturally gluten-free and vegan), other key ingredients of socca are water, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt.
All of the ingredients are whisked together to form a light batter that’s then left to rest (to allow for a creamy interior), before being cooked into thin crêpes on a piping hot grill. Then torn into wispy strips, the socca is served fresh and ready to eat!
Where does farinata come from? And a brief history of socca!
Whereas in Italy, the chickpea pancake is known as ‘farinata,’ in Nice and its surrounds, it’s called ‘socca’. Like many centuries-old foodstuffs, there’s a little bit of a legend surrounding the creation of this dish! The story goes that when the people of Nice ran out of ammunition as the Turkish army was advancing in the 16th-century, they cooked up some piping hot batter to pour over the advancing army’s heads.
After whipping up and baking the mix of chickpea flour, oil, and water, they then licked their fingers, only to discover that the batter was incredibly delicious. And so socca was born! Since the beginning of the 1900s, the food has become increasingly popular and can now be found up and down the Côte d’Azur coastline.
Address| 13 Rue Bavastro, 06000 Nice, France
For the very best socca in Nice, there is no better place to frequent than Chez Pipo. However, even during the week, it’s not uncommon to spend a little while waiting for a table, and so be sure to arrive earlier in the lunch hour to avoid disappointment.
The restaurant is named for the founder ‘Pipo,’ who started the business in 1923 selling the local speciality to tourists and locals alike. Pipo’s family then continued running the restaurant right up until the 1980s. Now, a 300-year old oven (one of the oldest in the city) can be found in the very heart of the restaurant, flanked by long communal tables.
Though you can order the farinata with peppers or anchovies, I recommend staying traditional and simply ordering an ‘originale’ with a crisp glass of rosé wine. There’s also limited outdoor seating. Afterwards, be sure to pay a visit to the very best viewpoint in Nice, that from the Castle Hill that overlooks the Promenade des Anglais and is particularly pleasant on a clear and sunny day.
Address | 28 Rue Droite, 06300 Nice, France
If you are looking for the ultimate streetside culinary experience in the heart of Nice’s old town, then you must visit Chez Theresa. There have been various incarnations of this store since the 1920s, and today the restaurant has several locations across the old town area of Nice.
Truth be told, my favourite of the restaurant spots is along Rue Droite. You can sit inside and inhale the scent of the freshly baked crêpes or, alternatively, you can sit on one of the little tables and watch the world go by as you sip on a glass of vin.
The other of Cheze Thérésa’s locations can be found at Cours Saleya, where the freshly-baked socca is whisked away from nearby Rue Droite on a little bicycle to the hungry diners on the popular square. Thanks to both of the restaurant’s prominent positions within the old town, nearby you’ll soon discover Nice’s imposing cathedral and the beautiful Musée du Palais Lascaris.