Nice proved no exception on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday we settled on a place on the restaurant-lined strip near the Nice oceanfront, Cours Saleya. The restaurant was well-ranked on Trip Advisor and my spaghetti dish was perfectly fine. Just nothing to write home about. Sunday we were tired after miles of walking and wonderful visits to the Marc Chagall National Museum and the Matisse Museum. So we committed the cardinal sin of travel: We ate in our hotel. (I’ve made a mental note on my ‘don’t ever’ list.)
So Monday, my birthday, we were due for a good meal. Instead, we had two.
Once again, relying on our feet and our eyes did the trick. In the morning, we walked deeper into Nice’s old city, away from the water and onto narrow streets with art galleries, small shops and family restaurants. We were looking for a place called La Rossettisserie, ranked 25th on the list of 1,287 Nice restaurants in the French version of Trip Advisor. Its home page advertises it as a restaurant familiale, and a family place it truly is. Ten of its 19 seats are at a single table and when we visited, two French couples and a French family shared it (they didn’t arrive together).
One reason we were intrigued by La Rossettisserie is that it has a single specialty, roasted meats. Certainly that made ordering simple. It cooks fresh and succulent lamb, veal, beef, pork and chicken, and serves them with a choice of salad, potatoes or ratatouille. The cost of a main plate at lunch: about $20. Other than dessert, wine and the special of the day, that pretty much wraps up the menu.
This is a casual mom-and-pop That’s been open for five years. The sign behind the counter, in English, reads “God gave man a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to run once (sic) at a time.” Another sign in the bathroom reads, “If the towel dispenser is empty, please use your clothes.”
Only it didn’t! We walked miles along and above the sea to make room for dinner, too, and at 7:15 set out to the same area of narrow streets to try out a restaurant we had passed that opened its doors only for 90 minutes at lunch and two hours at dinner. When we arrived, it was fully booked. But a block down the street, we had noticed a well-lit, lively and warm restaurant with old photos on its stone walls and a long wooden bar inside the door on. Even at 7:30, it had been hopping so we hurried back.
We got the last unreserved table, right by the door. but beside three local guys standing at the bar and chatting with the bartender who we think is also the owner. The restaurant is called Da Acchiardo and it’s pure Nicois, more Italian than French (Nice, near the Italian border, did not finally become part of France until 1860). Located at 38 Rue Droite, it ranks 56 of those 1,287 restaurants in Trip Advisor. But you can forget those rankings.
This is a wonderful place to eat: local and international, friendly, lively, with portions plentiful and delicious. I had the veal dish of the house and thank goodness I didn’t start with a soup. Out came the thickest, most succulent piece of veal ever, stuffed with ham and cheese and smothered with red and green peppers, onions, carrots and mushrooms. I’d chosen green beans out of a half dozen choices for a side, and these could have made a meal in themselves, smothered in a butter and garlic sauce. Kathy ate simply, a heaping plate of spaghetti with daub (stew) sauce. Also delicious and just $11, her dish cost about half the cost of my main course.
We started with a slightly sweet-tasting, light kir ($4), and each settled for a small carafe of house wine ($6 each), Kathy’s white, mine red, and surprisingly full-bodied. We shared a dessert ($9), a huge chocolate mousse piled with whip cream (I was too full for the cheese plate).
This is not a place of haute cusine, not the stuff of food photos.When I asked for a kir royale to start the meal, the bartender said the restaurant serves just kir. But I can’t remember a tastier veal dish anywhere. Our waiter, who had waited tables for five months in New York City, didn’t push his English on us. And though the restaurant was crowded we didn’t feel at all rushed.
When I thanked the waiter while paying for capping off my birthday, he quickly brought us two limoncellos on the house.
Sante. And enjoy the meal.