Frank Cerutti was born and bred in Nice, knows every alley of the big olive, once owned a very successful restaurant, Don Camillo, a courgette’s throw from Cours Saleya market. Married to Veronique, he lives with her and their two daughters in an apartment nudging the old chateau. “Nice is in my bones,” he admits. As Chef de Cuisine at the legendary Louis XV, Monte Carlo, Cerutti works with Alain Ducasse and a cast of thousands in state-of-the art kitchens the size of two tennis courts.
Difficult to eat anywhere else after the Louis XV. “Difficult to work anywhere else,” said a commis last week. Cerutti agrees, so busy at the moment that he has little time for eating out. He also admits, “It’s difficult for me to eat in restaurants. I’m so sensitive to the products, I often feel like taking my own! When I go up to Paris to teach at ADF (Alain Ducasse Formation) I get some really strange looks at the airport. You can barely see me behind my boxes of courgettes. Well, how can you teach people to cook courgettes de Nice, if you don’t use the local ingredients?”
More from Frank:
“La Merenda, now you’re talking. That’s beyond criticism, even for me! Dominique Le Stanc had the courage of his convictions, hung up his chef’s toque, returned his Michelin stars, and left The Negresco’s Chantecler restaurant to take over a simple bistro and fulfil his dream of working with his wife Daniele. There’s no telephone, no reservations and no credit cards. Le Stanc’s stockfish is superb. We often meet in the Cours Saleya market, just in front of the Prefecture; he’s buying the same products from the same little producers as I am. The difference is, he’s serving them on simple red-checked tablecloths and his menu is chalked up on a blackboard. That’s what I love about France, the contrasts. You can’t eat caviar every day!
“Vincent Miraglia is a friend of mine. We met when we worked with Jacques Maximin way back in the 70’s. He’s now creating wonderful authentic Italo/Franco dishes at Via Aurelia, near the port. His room-only seats 30; he offers three or four seasonal dishes each day. Vincent said to me last time I enjoyed his beef ravioli with warm sweet potatoes wrapped in pastry, “Frank, it’s the idea that makes the difference.” I say it’s the simple, tasty cuisine and the stunning welcome from Madame M.
“Veronique and I always look forward to walking to La Table d’Alzieri, tucked away in a tiny street, not far from our apartment. It’s another husband and wife success story for Anne-Marie (the chef) and André Alziari, who recites the daily “Nissart” specials and makes your mouth water. Stuffed sardines, eggplant beignets, daube of lamb, roast peppers, petits farcis and the local speciality, sweet tourte blette. There’s also an excellent beef tartare and chip,s which washes down well with a pitcher of Côtes de Provence.
“We also enjoy getting away from the sea and into the countryside at the 17th century, former potter’s home, La Bastide de Moustiers. At La Bastide, which Alain Ducasse transformed with his usual flair, everyone is welcome to wander into the farmhouse kitchen and discuss roasting, braising, herbs and the “new” authentic cuisine of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence headed by chef Vincent Maillard. We return to Nice, with armfuls of lavender (in season) and flower scented fougasse breads baked by Monsieur Peix in the village. One day perhaps we’ll have time to stay in one of the 12 rooms; the White Room is my favourite!
“Back at home, I love cooking. Lunch or dinner is a simple Correze veal, Limousin beef or Sisteron lamb from Jean and René Agu. But, as a true Nicois, I cannot go for long without a socca (local pancake). The best I know is Pippo Socca, rue Bavastro. He doesn’t have a telephone and is only open at night; his stall is behind the church by the port. Pippo’s socca is almost as good as mine!
“I often pop over the border into Italy, I’ve loved the country since I worked at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence. At Bordighera, the brothers Pessina continue a family tradition chez Carletto with a tasting menu of Crustacé, fabulous hors’ doeuvres, smoked swordfish, sea-bass flambé with calvados and grated apples, spaghetti with langouste or grilled gambas. To finish, the best Italian dessert: home-made ice-creams and fruit sorbets. I go early to the Ventigmiglia covered market and choose my fish and seafood as it comes in from the boats. Longo Saverio at the end on the right has the best gamberoni. Tell him you come from Frank, he’ll look after you! The same goes for olive oil, at Sospel. Jean-Francois Tripodi produces the purest. His tapenade, a deep purple colour, is the best I’ve tasted. At La Conquillera d’Oro, Finale Ligure, I choose the fish I want and then sit back with a glass of Chianti, watch as it is grilled in front of me. Nice to watch someone else at work!”
Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse
Hotel de Paris, Place du Casino, Monte Carlo.
T: +377 92 16 29 76 – Club Lunch 90€ with wine + A la carte
4 rue de la Terrasse, Nice
26 rue Bonaparte (angle rue F. Guisol), Nice.
T: 04 93 26 37 39
La Table d’Alzieri
4 rue Francois Zanin, Nice
T: 04 93 80 34 03
Domaine de la Ginestrea, Sospel (Olive oil)
T: 04 93 04 19 39
20 cours Saleya, Nice
T: 04 93 62 32 74
La Conquillera d’Oro
Via Aurelia 133
T: 00 39 0196 98015
339 Via Vittorio Emanuele, Bordighera
T: 00 30 0184 26 17 25
La Bastide de Moustiers
Chemin de Quinson, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
T: 04 92 70 47 47
Born in Britain and now based in Paris, Margaret Kemp graduated from The Cordon Bleu and spent a year working and watching in the kitchens of top chefs from Sydney, Australia via Bangkok, Hong Kong, California, New York and France. Realising she would never win the coveted 3-Michelin stars, she decided to write about the people who do, the “disciples of Escoffier.”