Nice greeted us with a double rainbow over a flat Mediterranean sunset sea. It was an auspicious sign after a weary travel day: there’d been a hassle with our overweight luggage on Aer Lingus on our flight from Dublin, confusion with our airport pickup not finding the hotel, impatient sighs with our room not being ready well after check-in time. All those annoying realities of travel fading away as we grinned for selfies with the rest of the tourists in the multi-hued glow of a balmy night.
We wandered past Chinese, African, Arab, and German tourists, past signs advertising moules et frites, paella, bouillabaisse, couscous and moussaka. Past storefronts selling French shoes, Danish furniture, Thai massage, and an actual rock shop. And stopped on the pedestrian-only Rue Massena in front of La Pizza Cresci where the people watching is as fabulous as the sepia movie stills of European movie stars like Jean Paul Belmondo lining the walls, a nod to the glamour historically associated with French Riviera. The flavors we discovered were as fabulous as the ambiance.
We were besotted with the place – the enormous wood burning pizza oven, the Pizza Reine topped with thinly sliced ham, mushrooms, oregano and Pizza Stagioni with artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives representing the seasons. We discovered the glories of chili-infused olive oil as a pizza condiment. The flavors, the service, the magic of the double rainbow, the people watching, all the elements combined to put La Pizza Cresci right up there on the list of The Best Pizza I Ever Ate.
We had to go back, and our second meal at La Pizza Cresci was the night of a torrential rainstorm. We kicked back and watched the dance at the pizza oven. Wood fire blazing brightly. Pizza chef nonchalantly sprinkling handfuls of toppings over freshly rolled dough. Deftly wielding an extra long handled peel to slide the pies one by one into the fiery cavern. He didn’t watch the pizzas cook, instead relying on muscle memory to know exactly when to turn, remove, and shake them off onto the zinc counter where black clad waiters swarmed to grab and carry piping hot slices to their tables.
Then the rain got real, and people started to duck into the restaurant just to stay dry. As the sprinkle became a deluge, a young couple sitting opposite us starting whispering and giggling and consulted with their server, who disappeared and returned with two large plastic bags. Under the amused eyes of ALL the nearby tables, the couple stuffed them with first their coats, then shirts, shoes, socks, trousers, and shirts in turn. Hounding hands and laughing, they ran barefoot into the soggy dark street wearing clad only in sous-vêtements. They deserve their privacy, so no photos. But here’s a fairly magical looking shot of the night into which they skipped: