Nice Bite: Snacking on Socca
“You have to eat socca to understand it,” says Caterina Prochilo, cradling a piping hot slice fresh from Theresa’s copper pan. Socca is a cross between a crepe and a pancake, a thin disc made with chickpea flour, and it’s a specialty of Nice, the unofficial capital of France’s Cote d’Azur.
Prochilo, a resident of Nice, takes visitors to Cours Saleya, Old Town’s open-air market, to sample the socca at Theresa’s stand, where the behatted grande dame has presided for decades.
While socca shares culinary roots with Genoa’s farinata and Tuscany’s cecina, it has developed its own distinctive style and flavor. Chickpea flour is combined with a mixture of water and olive oil, forming a batter, then baked on the pie-plate-like plaque in a wood-fired brick oven. The golden, dimpled cake that emerges — tender on the inside and crisp on the edges — balances the nutty taste of chickpeas with the tang of ground pepper.
The fast food first gained favor in the mid-19th century as a snack for fishermen who would wolf down slices from wagons with charcoal ovens. True to tradition, socca is served in a paper cone, no utensils needed.
Amble toward the port and Chez Pipo, which has specialized in socca since 1923. Sitting on the terrace with friendly locals, eating a savory slice of socca with a glass of chilled rose, offers an unforgettable taste of old, and abiding, Nice.
This piece, written by Don George, appeared in the June/July 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow Don on Twitter @don_george.
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