- Cuisine: Italian (with accents from the French Riviera)
- Atmosphere: lively, Tuscan colors, casual
- Attire: casual
- Ideal for: outdoor dining, a change from the norm
- Must try: Socca, what else?
- Price: Appetizers, most under $15; Entrees, all under $17
- Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
- Phone: (212) 956-1800
- Website: http://www.nizzanyc.com/
- Location: 630 9th Ave, (Btwn 44th & 45th St)
*All of the photos from my meal can be viewed on Flickr
Call it what you will, a goal or a New Year’s resolution, but I’ve recently made (even more of) a conscious effort to live my life without any regrets. I would hate to look back at age 40 or 80 (or anywhere in between) and question why I never: Moved to France; lived and worked in Manhattan; told Mr. Handsome that I had feelings for him; traveled more often, etc. We only get one shot at this roller coaster called “life,” and there’s no way I’m going to my grave with any “what if’s.”
In addition to major life-altering decisions, I’ve also made an effort to be more willing and adventurous with food. When I was in France last winter, I was confident that I would return to New York having sampled local delicacies/specialties from each unique region I visited. Upon my return home, I reviewed my list:
- Escargot? Check.
- Frog legs? Check.
- Double gras? Check (ugh, unfortunately).
- Saucisson? Check.
- Foie gras? Check.
- Quenelle? Check.
- Socca? … Um, can I get a sound check on socca, please? Anybody?
“Oh no!” I cried, “I went all the way to Nice and didn’t try socca (click here for definition)?! When the hell will I be back in the French Riviera? Damn it!”
Though I was pretty regretful and bummed, I was elated to learn of a newly opened restaurant in Manhattan called “Nizza” (which is the Italian word for Nice), whose signature item is (you guessed it) socca. So when I was put in charge of making last minute brunch reservations for Sunday, I chose Nizza on a whim and booked a table for 3.
Overlooking bustling 9th Avenue, patrons can choose to dine street-side or opt for a table indoors. While tempted to enjoy brunch al fresco, I ultimately chose to sit inside due to Sunday’s gale force winds. After being seated, I was pleased to note that Nizza had more arm, leg and purse room than most restaurants in NYC. Naturally illuminated by large store-front windows, the interior space was of generous size and finished with warm Mediterranean colors and accents (salmon, lime, cherry wood, wine bottles). By 12:15pm, the restaurant was quickly filling up with families celebrating Mother’s Day and local residents hoping to cure their hangovers with some nourishment.
There’s nothing more charming than a European accent, so I was delighted when a friendly Italian server approached and asked if I wanted something to drink. By the time he brought my glass of moscato d’asti, Cathryn and Colorado-Clint arrived (Yes, this meant that I *was* seated without my entire party. Note to self: Add bonus points for this.).
After trading weekend stories and strategizing how we could sneak beer in to Central Park, our server returned to take our food orders. Being that I didn’t have a French version to compare it to (and to relieve *some* of my guilt/regret), I chose Nizza’s signature Socca and Eggs. Shortly after the server left our table en route to the kitchen, another employee presented us with a plate of fresh focaccia and olive oil. Liberally topped with parmigiano-reggiano, sea salt and rosemary, the bread was warm to the touch, yet ever-so-slightly dried out; however, this didn’t hinder me from indulging in more than one piece.
I wasn’t sure what to think when my Socca and Eggs was placed in front of me, but my assumption of how this dish would look was dead wrong. Taking up the entire circumference of a dinner plate, the golden brown (and ¼ inch thick!) socca had been visibly cooked with deep green Swiss chard “leaves” and chopped white onion. Melted fontina cheese topped the middle of the crepe like a bull’s eye, though slightly disguised by two sunny-side-up eggs. I followed Colorado-Clint’s lead (who also ordered the Socca and Eggs) and used the side of my fork to shatter each egg’s yolk. Finally, I took my first bite: The eggs were perfectly cooked and their runny, bright yellow yolks proved to be an ideal accompaniment to the socca (similar to how I love the way that dry pancakes become instantly moist and mushy when drenched in way-too-much-to-be-healthy maple syrup). The socca’s crispy exterior gave way to a flavorful interior that had a texture something like a cross between corn bread and a traditional pancake. The trinity of combined ingredients (sharp fontina cheese, expertly cooked eggs and dredge of yolk) made quite the impression on my palate.
Had I not ended my meal with two more glasses of moscato (priced at $10/glass), my bill/check would have been considerably less expensive. However, I walked out of Nizza with a full stomach and a smile on my face. I hope to return for dinner in the near future. Oh, and until I return to the French Riviera, I’ll take my socca at Nizza!