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Dec 8, 2009 05:02 AM

Traveling to Nice in mid January with Mom and Sister

Hello all. My sister and I spent a couple weeks in Nice in January and have decided to take out Mom. It will be her first trip abroad. Sis and I stumbled across a few pretty good places, but ate at some mediocre places.

My Mom and Sis are meat-and-potatoes people. Mom considers pizza in the U.S. as snack food, not a meal, and rarely eats the crust. She may change her mind when she tries the yummy, crispy crusts in Nice.

Would you recommend down-to-earth food in a lively, friendly atmosphere. They will bristle at what they consider sparse, frou-frou, expensive food. I'll have to go do that on my own! They'd be willing to spend 35 euro per person with wine once during the trip, maybe. We'll need to take periodic breaks from walking, as Mom has some back problems, so I'm looking for recommendations for great bakeries, soca stands and places to get a great cup of espresso or a glass of rose.

Should I go to La Zucca Magica? I tried to dine there in January. It was closed when I first visited and about to close on my second. No sign on the door and no hours posted online. Should I take my taste buds elsewhere?

Our apartment will have a small kitchen, and we'll eat in regularly. Please recommend bakeries, groceries, etc.

We will also travel to Monte Carlo, Ventimiglia, Villefranche-sur-Mer and perhaps San Remo. I'd like to explore points west too, so I'm interested in restaurants and sights as far as Aix-en-Provence.


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  1. La Zucca Magica is all hype IMHO. Nothing is prepared on the premises, it's all reheated in microwaves.

    Lou Pilha Leva is a terrific Socca stand, it's all fresh out of the cooker right before you eat it.

    Stay away from the standard recs of La Merenda and most of the places on the Cours Saleya.

    L'Univers is a nice 1* and has a Menu for 25E, a very good deal.

    Le Cabanon is a really nice place right on the beach in Cap D'Ail. Off the beaten track, but really nice moderately priced food.

    I'd tell you to go to La Cicala in Bordighera (We went there on Beaulieu's blog recommendation) (Thanks, Beaulieu) It's a terrific place, but it might go over your budget. You will also never be able to eat Italian food outside of Italy ever again!

    Aix is a 2 1/2 hour drive. Are you staying overnight there?

    3 Replies
    1. re: menton1

      I second Bordighera, as a destination already. Much much nicer than Vintimille or San Remo.

      1. re: Parigi

        I like Bordighera, of course, but one can get to Ventimiglia easily from Nice on the train. Don't go on Friday or Sunday. Don't expect good pizza; it is better in Nice.

      2. re: menton1

        Probably not staying overnight anywhere but the apt in Nice. We're scaling back our ambitions for our weeklong stay. Thanks for your recommendation, Menton1.

      3. Nichele,
        You do not say just where your apartment is. It makes a big difference for the kind of questions you are asking.
        I think that socca is basically Old Nice.
        I think that La Zucca Magica is a fraud, but it is kept going by folks like your Mom and Sis.
        There is no such thing as a great glass of rosé.
        You should consider the two young, upcoming NIce restaurants: Millésime 82 and Flaveur.

        11 Replies
        1. re: beaulieu

          <There is no such thing as a great glass of rosé.> that is not true... just your opinion.

          Cours Saleya market is definitely geared for tourists, but the Old Town is magical and has lots of great food and places to see.

          Many restaurants and shops are closed in January (actually, most of the winter) for the "off-season."

          I would recommend going to St. Paul de Vence for the food and the art.

          1. re: ChefJune

            St Paul is as touristy as Cours Saleya, IMHO. What food? There's only one good restaurant in St Paul, La Colombe d'Or, way over the OP's budget... What art do you mean? The Maeght? It's OK , but Nice has over 20 museums.

            Lastly, Rose is really just a "fun" wine. What rose do you feel is "great"?

            1. re: menton1

              For a nearby village perché I would prefer Roquebrune or Biot over St Paul.
              I also like the old town of Nice and not its market. I also can live without the Zucca Magica.
              Beaulieu, if I respect you any more than I already do, I'd be singing out or something, but why say "La Zucca Magica is a fraud, but it is kept going by folks like your Mom and Sis"? Sounds sort of unkind when you all are being generous and sharing.

              1. re: Parigi

                Well, I don't mind being unkind to La Zucca Magica, but I did not intend to be unkind to Mom and Sis; I was just trying to pick up on Nichele's description of their food tastes. Sorry.

                I certainly agree about Roquebrune or Biot over St Paul.

                I don't agree about the various comments on the Cours Saleya. Yes, there are a lot of tourists there, but they don't keep the stands going. There are also a lot of local buyers; they have other choices of where to shop, but go to certain stands at the Cours Saleya because they know that the quality is good. There is also a lot of variety and things we cannot get in our lovely little morning market in Beaulieu.

                1. re: beaulieu

                  "Cours Saleya. Yes, there are a lot of tourists there, but they don't keep the stands going. There are also a lot of local buyers; they have other choices of where to shop, but go to certain stands at the Cours Saleya because they know that the quality is good. There is also a lot of variety and things we cannot get in our lovely little morning market in Beaulieu."

                  Again I agree.
                  During my stays in Biot, I would bypass the poissonnerie there and even the one in Antibes, - both not bad actually, - and go to Nice's Cours Saleya and get the seafood there.The Cours Saleya is becoming like the Boqueria of Barcelona or Campo dei Fiori of Rome. All the tourist hordes notwithstanding, these are still fabulous markets that are very much patronized by locals. Once at the Campo I had the hardest time trying to hand my money to the vendor because there were so many camera-toting tourists between us. Quite tragic-comic.We must keep a perspective. The local mall supermarket in the Iowan town where my dear husband grew up does not have throngs of tourists mais bon...

              2. re: menton1

                I am very surprised by the comments on Rosé. I have enjoyed many a bottles of very fine Rosé's from the pale delicate ones found on the coast in Provence to the more intense grenache based Tavel's. For me it is a "time & place" wine; best drunk on a sunny lunchtime or as an aperitif on the terrace watching the sun set.

                IMO the image of Rosé, as a sweet "non-wine", is a bit old fashioned. There is a definite renaissance in Rosé production in wine regions across the world, I feel I am generally rewarded when I explore them, in France I rely on the sommelier for guidance on labels and styles, but in Australia I often drink Charles Melton's great "Rose of Virginia" a really good grenache/shiraz based wine which reminds me of Tavel.

                Isn't all wine fun....?

                1. re: PhilD

                  All wine IS fun! Thanks for weighing in.

                2. re: menton1

                  Had a meal with three roses from the 70`s about five years ago in northern Spain, and along with current tavels always think fondly of them.

                  1. re: menton1

                    As a copy editor I should know better than to be casual with my sentence construction. "Great" was only meant to modify espresso. I'm not interested enough in roses to pursue "good" or "great" ones. Please see PhilD's comments about roses and "fun wine".
                    Thanks again, Menton1.

                    1. re: menton1

                      <What rose do you feel is "great"?> sounds like you've never had Domaine Tempier's legendary Rose... nor Sacha Lichine's Chateau d'Esclans.

                  2. re: beaulieu

                    Our apartment is on Rue Massena. "Great" was meant to modify "espresso" only; I agree with PhilD that rose can be a time-and-place wine. White zinfandel was my gateway wine many, many years ago. Later I scoffed at the Pink Kool-Aid wines, then came to appreciate a tasty rose.

                    I trust no offense was meant by the Mom and Sis comment, so none was taken.

                    Thanks for the two recommendations, beaulieu.

                  3. unfortunately everything on cours saleya is basically for tourists, recommend avoiding. (but fresh food market in the mornings is nice and you can find some locally grown fruit and veg if you know where to look)

                    a resto we go back to over and over is acchiardo (in rue droite, old town nice)... it's small, family-run (very good looking sons are the servers ;), and the food is typical, rustic, yummy nicoise (no fancy froufrou cooking here!). my man and i normally have an apèritif, starter, main, + bottle of house wine and the check comes to €50-60. (there are no prix-fixe menus, everything is à la carte, menu is quite short, plat du jour sells out early)
                    downside: they aren't open weekends. and if you go friday night, booking ahead is the only way to go.

                    btw, the gelateria finocchio (on the square, catticorner to the cathedral) is locally famous... and with 96 flavours, you can even have black olive gelato if you dare....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: juliadevi

                      Thanks, Juliadevi. I tried to go to Fenoccio last January but they were closed for renovations. I'd try black olive gelato in a heartbeat. And I'll look for Acchiardo.

                    2. My favorite hilltop village is La Turbie. On the very top Corniche, charming little village with a breathtaking view. Nice Roman ruins as well, and not on the tourist circuit list. A couple of good restos, as well as the top of the line Hostellerie Jerome, which I read about on Beaulieu's blog!

                      1. Can you tell us how it went? I'm going to Villefranche for a week in May. It sounds like your request is similar to mine. We want good local fare, not high priced formal food. Our apartment is in the old town area of Villefranche, close to Rue Obscure. Where are these great Nice pizzerias, too?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: JojoSF

                          I'm not a huge fan of pizza, but have been with friends who are and they love Le Catalan, a casual place in the next town, Beaulieu, on Marechal Joffre. I like the salads they make there, really interesting, but my friends have the pizza and love it!

                          1. re: JojoSF

                            I agree about Le Catalan's pizza. It's excellent. The Catalan mixed grill is also very good if you have big appetite and a certificate from your cardiologist. The pizza at the African Queen in the Beaulieu port is also very good, although there are mixed opinions about the rest of the cuisine and the ambience. Near your apartment you will find quite a few good little restaurants, but none to write home about.

                            1. re: beaulieu

                              This pizza talk reminds me…
                              Beaulieu, I appeal to your expertise as a local and an epicure.
                              Ions ago I had a great pan bagnat on the port of Beaulieu, in a very small place sandwiched between two touristy seafood restaurants. It was the best beach picnic. But my pan bagnat place seems to have moved or died 10 years ago. Would you know where it went? Do you know a good pan bagnat place?
                              PB is a Mediterranean "prole" kind of food that I love and crave, and although, like pizza, 99% of what is available seems to be crap, I know it can be well made.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                On Maréchal Foch, just up from the train station and directly across the street from Les Agaves restaurant is a wonderful boulangerie with a great Pan Bagnat. Also, for variety, try their pissaladière. MMMMMM!!

                                Generally, I've found the best Pan Bagnat in Nice and environs to be at selected boulangeries. All you need is a shady park bench!

                                1. re: menton1

                                  All this talk about Pissaladiere and Pan Bagnat is making me hungry for Nice as well as for the food!