The socca wars
Socca, socca, socca! What is it? Where does it come from? Where can you get it? And who’s winning the ‘socca war’?
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Allez !
What is socca? Where does it come from?
Socca is a Provençal pancake that goes back to around 1860.
It started in the South of France and remains a staple in Toulon, Nice and Marseilles. It has humble beginnings, as basically an inexpensive but filling meal for the dock workers and fishermen around the port and marchés areas. It was given to them along with some bread to keep their energy levels up and fill their bellies so that they could continue to work long hours. It is considered to be the first ‘fast food’ of Nice!
There are different names and different flours used to make this ‘pancake’ in different regions of the South of France, but I will talk about socca de Nice, since this is where I live and the type I am most familiar with. I say ‘familiar’, but what I really mean is ‘Completely 100% Addicted’ and ‘Pretty Qualified’ to discuss the socca made in Nice!! Yes, I am a ‘Socca Addict’ and I have a T-Shirt to prove it!!
Socca de Nice is made from farine de pois chiches (or chick-pea flour). The flour is mixed with water, olive oil, salt and crushed black pepper, poured into a smoking-hot large, round 70 cm diameter copper ‘pie/pizza type’ tin, and cooked in a very hot wood-fired oven for about five minutes until the top is golden to very deep brown with darker spots from the high temperature. The copper is très important for spreading the heat evenly and cooking fast.
Traditionally socca is served in paper cups or on paper plates with olive oil, salt and pepper, along with Rosé wine and eaten with your hands, no utensils needed. It has a mild nutty flavor that is totally unique but very distinctive and completely addictive when it’s made correctly! There is nothing sweet about socca; it’s not exactly savory either. It has the texture of a pancake but it can be slightly crunchy on the outside. It happens to be one of those foods that you say: “Just do it. Try it”. It is also pretty filling due to the protein content in the flour. I eat this for lunch quite often – oui avec du Rosé, it’s the only time that I cheat on my beloved Cabernet!
Where can you get it? And who’s winning the ‘socca wars’?
You can get socca in many places throughout Vieux Nice. Just walk around the streets and you’ll see plenty of signs, it is not hard to find at all. And suitable for lots of diets – vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, kids; heck socca for everyone! And it’s pretty inexpensive so go for it! Get a double order; it’s ok, nobody’s watching!
The question is: Who’s got the best socca?
Well, we, the French, love a good debate. And just like heated debates about where to find the best baguette, it’s the same for socca! So, since I’m writing this article, I will tell you my favorite! For me, there is only one place in Nice to get socca! And that place is:
Chez Pipo – 13 Rue Bavastro in “The Port” area.
Wave the French Flag, hands down it’s my favorite and most locals will agree! We love our socca like we love our wine and Chez Pipo has that covered. They actually have their own brand of Rosé to serve alongside their socca! MIAM MIAM ! A word of warning, this place is super popular and not very big. It is a local favorite so you may need to wait for a table, but it’s worth it! Parking can also be a hassle, but it’s worth it! And the history and story behind this place is just as fabulous as the food & wine! Opening in 1923, it was family owned until 1986! It is a historical part of Nice. There are stunning black and white pictures that hang inside along with colored shots to bring the story of Chez Pipo up to date. Inside, the oven is the centrepiece, and you can see the cook making the socca! The smells are out of this world! It is an absolute MUST to go there at least once. SO MAJOR!!
But let me just be fair to other socca sellers in Nice; below is a list of places where you can get socca. So go try them out and be your own judge. This list has no particular order or personal preference to sellers whatsoever. Voilà! Bon Appétit !!
Lou Pilha Leva – 10 Rue Collet, Nice, France
René Socca – 2 Rue Miralheti, Nice, France
Nissa Socca – 7 Rue Sainte-Reparate, Nice, France
Socca d’Or – 45 Rue Bonaparte, Nice, France
La Socca – 215 Avenue Californie, Nice, France
1. Socca & Rose Wine at Chez Pipo
2. Socca sign outside of a Vieux Nice Restaurant.
3. Socca ovens and Socca cooking from street