Posted by: acooksca | 04/03/2009

The Last Olive Oil Mill in Nice

On my shopping list of things to bring home from the South of France was olive oil from Nicholas Alziari. A friend alziari-ahad given me one of the distinctive blue and yellow cans two years ago. The oil was light textured, sweet and elegant. There was not a trace of the back-of-the-throat acid of lesser oils. It had been purchased in Nice and I was prepared to search hard for it there.

In reality, the Alziari shop was so easy to find we just happened to walk by it moments after arriving in Nice. The small store, just a glance from the central open market, has been in business since 1936. Imposing iron barrels line the back wall and once held the oil sold in bulk. We milled around vats of olives, baskets of herbs de Provence and studied the different sizes of cans of oil. We just wanted to soak up the authentic atmosphere of the place.

The Alziari family started their mill on the (then) outskirts of Nice 130 years ago. They built a mill identical to others near the river using water to power the mill and purify the oil. Their method of extracting oil is known as the Genovese method and uses the slow 2-3 hour grinding of olives by stone wheels in vats. While visiting the mill the guide will tell you their simple method of crushing and extracting “does not suffer from any sophistication.”

During the late ninetieth century there were many such mills in Nice but they have all closed with the exception of Alziari. WW1 took the men from the mills. After the wars the production of other agricultural products and flowers became more attractive. From the 1960s on, the expanding real estate market dealt the final blows to olive oil mills within the city limits.

If you have time when in Nice go visit the mill. You can see the grinding stones, nibble some olives and sample the local olive tapenade. Or pass by the Alziari shop in Old Nice. Step inside and immerse yourself in the ambiance of a simpler time.

The Nicholas Alziari Shop is at 14, rue St. Francois de Paule in Old Nice. Open Tuesday through Saturday.

The olive oil mill is at 318 Blvd. de la Madeleine about 4 km. from Old Nice. Open Monday through Friday.

 

Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing your genuine passion about an extraordinary olive oil which we are proud to carry.
    The story you depict is what people need to hear to get the motivation to go back to basics once in awhile.
    It is sad that the river’s flow which used to power the stone mill is no longer strong enough, which forced the family-owned company to resort to electricity.
    To those who argue that Nicolas Alziari olive oil is too expensive, I say that it is so rich that one needs nothing else to make a wonderful dressing. What one saves on vinegar, white wine and/or herbs offsets the cost of Alziari olive oil.
    What’s amazing in the Genovese method is how they separate the oil from the olive waste once pressed. They pour water to bring the oil, lighter, on top while the waste, heavier, remains at the bottom.

    • Fred: Thanks for your comment and your companies email. When my stash of Alziari olive oil runs out (and that will be soon, I am afraid) I know where to turn. It’s such a great product! Karen


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