The first time I went to Nice, it was barely a stop on a five-week adventure through Europe with my best friends from high school: Nice seemed as good a spot as any to visit between Barcelona and Asolo, and as its name suggests, Nice was nice.
We used Nice as a jumping off point that trip: Monaco, Cannes, Beaulieu-sur-Mer... Nice was a lovely place to hang our hats and eat pastry in the morning before hopping on a train to somewhere new. We spent one afternoon on the beach, napping on towels and trying to forget the smooth stones that had replaced the sand we knew and loved. I waded in the Mediterranean, clear and blue, and tried not to miss the waves of my childhood Atlantic, as a North African man strolled up and down the beach, singing a list of wares for sale, “Birra, birra, cerveza, Coca Cola, hello, hello, hello, pronto!” Even today, I can't get it out of my head.
It wasn't until two years later when I moved to Cannes that I finally visited Nice, instead of just slipping through, and it was only then that I got to know this Provencal city for what it is. Nice isn't just French: its name is a remnant of former Italian control – Nizza – and its culture is a hodgepodge of French by default, American by import, Italian by history, and Provencal by undercurrent. I strolled in the old town and was surprised at how un-French and un-Italian it felt, but I couldn't put my finger on what exactly it was.
The food in Nice reflects this atmosphere, hailing neither from France nor from Italy... it's decisively nicois: salads with tomato and tuna, crêpes made of chickpea flour from north Africa, and a sort of pizza that's conspicuously devoid of tomatoes, decorated delicately with tiny anchovies in diamond shapes.
- 1 puff pastry dough or pizza dough
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 tsp. herbes de Provence
- 1 tin anchovies
- Several black olives (6-12 depending on the Size of your pissaladière)
- Salt and pepper
- Heat a skillet over low heat and add the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the onions with a hefty pinch of salt. Allow to cook without stirring for fifteen minutes or so, until the onions begin to color. Add about half of the wine and stir.
- Continue to cook for about an hour, stirring every 2-3 minutes until the onions have caramelized, adding wine when they look dry. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- When the onions are cooked, stir in the herbes de Provence and some fresh black pepper.
- Unfold or roll out the dough onto a baking sheet. With a puff pastry dough, use a fork to prick the dough all over. Spread the onions in an even layer over the dough. Lay the anchovies over the onions to form a diamond pattern, with an olive between each diamond. Bake at 450 degrees 10-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked and slightly golden. Serve hot or cold.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia