La Mamma And Her Braised Rabbit

That’s Mamma herself, giving me the very simple recipe for her famous Coniglio al Rossesse e Olive. How I got this footage was not so simple.

When everyone from Michelin starred chefs, world famous food writers, to even your lowly line cook friends on the Côtes d’Azur all tell you to go eat at the same place. You go, of course. One little problem: no one seems to know name of the place! Everyone refers to this little restaurant – in this tiny speck of a town, way away from the glitzy coast – Chez Mamma. Why? Because, as you see from the video, it’s the charming Mamma who is the force behind it.

The direction they give is no less cryptic. You ready? From Menton – the last little French town before you hit Italy – you take the road to Ventimiglia, the market town just beyond the border. You continue past Ventimiglia, toward the general direction of Sanremo. Just before you hit yet another little village Bordigherra, which itself is about half way to Sanremo – you’re still with me? – you’ll come upon, you guessed it, a little village, yes, this time called Vallecrosia. That’s where you make the turn, left, up toward Vallecrosia Alta. The road’s called Via Roma, though it won’t take you anywhere near Rome. Never mind. Stay on that road, pass Vallecrosia Alta, until you see a hill town called San Biagio della Cima. Don’t follow the high road up to the town, stay on the low one, and you’ll come right up to the restaurant, just beyond the town, to the right. Sadly, if you blink you’ll miss it.

One day this summer I finally made it. Let me just tell you it was worth it. It even wrote down the name of the restaurant: La Vecchia Ostaia. But you know something? I never did find out her name. I had all the intention to, but once the food arrived I had no mind for anything else.

Her food was the essence of rustic Italian. Not the stuff that pass for it in the MePa in Manhattan. Her amazing pasta was all handmade, in all their lumpy and unruly glory. Her simple wild mushroom dish was simply that, wild mushrooms, with a little garlic and olive oil, and a sparing of parsley. But I’d eat that over anything adorned with expensive white truffles, any day. Mamma married a Ligurian man, and moved here from her home in Calabria. Her menu is dotted by specialties from her country: Calabrian salumi, cheeses, and pasta.

Her dessert was just as void of pretension. She had a couple of fruit tarts on offer, each one just pieces of fruits pressed directly on top of pasta frolla, an Italian sweet crust. She uses super ripe and juicy fruits, so as they bake the sugar comes out and forms a crisp candied crust on top of the tart. Genius. I didn’t get her pasta frolla recipe this time, but next year, I’ll bring it back to share with you for sure. Meanwhile, just check out this awesome shot of her fig tart, Crostata di Fichi in Italian. If you’re going to order it in Italian, just be careful not to say it wrong like I did. Because it would be, well, embarrassing, to say the least.

The food was so good I visited her the second time in the short week I was in the area. This time, I ate one of the best braised rabbit dishes I’ve ever had. This sure ain’t Lièvre à la Royale at chez Ducasse in nearby Monaco, but I think I prefer Mamma’s version. The rabbit was slowly cooked in red wine – she uses one made from the local Rossesse grapes. The braising jus was clearly broken, with bits of rosemary, sweet onions, and tangy, fruity olives.

When Mamma came to our table to say good night, I complemented her on the delicious rabbit and asked if she could tell me how she made it. Well, she came to the end of her French ability, she said. She wasn’t born here near the border or her French would more proficient, she said by way of an apology. Could she tell me in Italian she wondered? Smiling, I put away my pen and paper and grabbed instead my trusty Panasonic GF1. Lucky for you, I have the video to share here. (And, with the help of a couple friends, Hande and Kristina G, I even have the subtitle on the video for you. Thanks girls!)

La Mamma’s Braised Rabbit

  • 1 4lbs rabbit, ask your butcher to cut it into 8 pieces
  • 3 small onions
  • a couple springs of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few sage leaves
  • about 2/3 a bottle of red wine, use a fruity, low tannin wine for this
  • rabbit liver from the rabbit, if you don’t have it just use a couple of chicken livers
  • about 2/3 cup of olives, I use niçoise olives with pits

The recipe was really as easy as Mamma made it sound in the video. In a hot pan, brown the pieces of rabbit with a little olive oil, until they golden on both sides. Add the onions and all the aromatics, brown them together a bit more. Add some salt, pour in the red wine. Yes it’s a lot of red wine but who are you to argue with Mamma? Cover the pan with the lid, bring it to a boil. Open up the lid and add the liver that you’ve chopped up before. Stir it in well, reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the rabbit pieces are tender, 45 minutes perhaps? Depends on how tough your rabbit is. Just simmer on low until it’s done. Oh, and about 10, 15 minutes before it’s done, add the olives. Before you serve, add a few glugs of olive oil over everything. This should serve 4-5 people, or just one hungry me.

Here’s a shot of my braised rabbit. Looks pretty much identical to Mamma’s, huh? Taste pretty much the same too. And so will yours.

Buon Appetito!

And, if you’re ever in the area, definitely make the trip to Chez La Mamma. It’s only 40 minutes from Nice. Let me tell you, it will be worth every crappy bite you’ve taken in Vieux Nice. Be sure to give her a kiss for me.

La Vecchia Ostaia: Via Provinciale, 34 – 18036, San Biagio della Cima
Tel: 0184 28 92 49, from France 0039 0184 28 92 49

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44 Responses to “La Mamma And Her Braised Rabbit

  • Alice Q. Foodie said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 8:29am

    Oh my gosh Pim – this is great! So glad to have you back and LOVING the new format and posts – brava! Will definitely make that Dorie meal. And probably every other one after it. 🙂

    • Pim said:
      November 15th, 2010 at 9:28am

      How sweet are you! I’d love to hear what you think after you’ve done the dinner.

      • Mike said:
        April 19th, 2011 at 4:55am

        hi pimlot

  • LimeCake said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 8:50am

    I’m so glad you’re blogging again! Your braised rabbit looks spectacular!

    • Pim said:
      November 15th, 2010 at 9:29am

      Thank you. You should try the recipe. It’s simple and so amazing.

  • Paula said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 10:14am

    Thanks for the address Pim. I’ll plan a journey to San Biagio della Cima next time I’m in Nice…
    Congratulations for your new BLOG btw!!
    Bisous from Paris,

    • Pim said:
      November 15th, 2010 at 10:24am


      Let’s make a date next summer, we can go together!


  • Mylittleexpatkitchen said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 1:38pm

    This is such a traditional Italian dish! I love it. I think it’s Sicilian… well, that where I’ve eaten it, in Sicily. I will make this version as soon as possible.
    So nice to have you back 🙂

  • Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 2:55pm

    You’ve captured a real moment here with your video. You can see her beaming with pride when she tells you the recipe — especially when it comes to those special olives. I just loved watching her!

    • Pim said:
      November 15th, 2010 at 9:25pm

      I know, she’s so adorable in person too. I have another short video of her talking about how she rolls her macheroni. Adorable!

  • Tuscan Foodie said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 3:43pm

    A correction: at second 22, she says that you need to take the rabbit’s liver and smash it with a fork in the pan. The translation says you need to take the “rabbit”.

    • Pim said:
      November 15th, 2010 at 4:12pm

      Oops. I’ll note it, I meant to say take the “rabbit liver”. The recipe down lower in the post has it correctly.


  • Casey said:
    November 15th, 2010 at 10:57pm

    sweet jesus, that fig tart looks sublime

    • Pim said:
      November 19th, 2010 at 4:33am

      and tasted it too..

  • Helengosteli said:
    November 19th, 2010 at 2:51am

    Ohhh Pim, this video makes me feel sorry for being in Melbourne! And not back in Switzerland, where it would be quite close to, what was it again, San Biagio della Cima. But you console us with this fabulous sounding and looking recipe.
    I will definitely give it a try! Thank you so much.

    • Pim said:
      November 19th, 2010 at 4:34am

      Thanks! As you could see the recipe produced a dish that looked identical to mama’s, so please try it.

  • geek+nerd said:
    November 19th, 2010 at 1:19pm

    What a great story and a charming video to boot! I hope that I can make it overseas to visit someday!

  • carmen GagliardiCarlucciog said:
    November 25th, 2010 at 12:33am

    The recipe is missing un bicchiere di acqua that mama mentioned near the end.Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.

    • Pim said:
      November 25th, 2010 at 6:21am

      Mama may have been a bit more stingy with the wine than the amount she told me. Each time I made this there was plenty of liquid and didn’t need any water. And you’re welcome.

  • kuhn rikon pressure cooker said:
    November 29th, 2010 at 8:07pm

    I just adore Italian rustic cuisine. Some of the best meals I had in my life were from Italian osterias where you can eat simple, basic and delicious meals (for just a few bucks).

  • JR Courtland said:
    January 8th, 2011 at 6:48am

    Wow, this looks so good. I need to go rabbit hunting again and try this out!

  • Briana said:
    January 25th, 2011 at 12:17am

    Your mother’s charm wins me over even more than these mouth-watering pictures. Can’t wait to try it! Here’s my blog on culinary tips:

  • Winstrol said:
    January 26th, 2011 at 11:24am

    This is bliss.

  • De Saint Julien said:
    February 7th, 2011 at 7:49pm

    Vieux Nice IS crappy ! Ducass is nouveaux rich. The best tables in my opinion are very often small no show off restaurants (just off the french border into Italy) offering great regional cuisine.
    Thanks for your post, love it !

  • Abwilliams78 said:
    April 15th, 2011 at 12:51am

    Oh my Lord my mouth is watering… I love rabbit. This looks like one of those dishes that ends up winning the blue ribbon at cooking competitions. Paula Deen has one called Real Women of Philadelphia that’s going on now. I think La Mamma just inspired me to enter! Mmmmmmm rabbit.

  • Recipe Contests said:
    April 28th, 2011 at 6:33pm

    This looks unbelievable! I can’t believe I’ve never tried rabbit of any kind! Mamma has a gift. Next time you visit, you should see what other recipes you can get out of here!

  • Susan McWilliams said:
    May 15th, 2011 at 7:59pm

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  • Anonymous said:
    May 30th, 2011 at 6:06am

    This is a great recipe. Lacking rabbit, I made it with chicken legs and thighs, skinless. I notice that in the video, Mamma says to include two cloves of garlic and a little water. I did neither, and also lacked livers, but it was still absolutely delicious. Served it with roasted potatoes that had been tossed with olive oil, garlic and salt. Best of all, I think, would be serving with crusty bread. The jus is too good to leave on the plate. Thanks, Pim!

  • Aluma Wallet said:
    June 13th, 2011 at 8:32pm

    This braised rabbit dish looks (and sounds) wonderful.  Thanks for the recipe.

  • anonymous said:
    June 28th, 2011 at 5:24pm

    Did you guys see the Extreme Chef Sneak Peek on Sunday? It looked sick!!! I heard the premiere is on Thursday June 30th at 10pm on Food Network. Gotta check it out!

  • Phil said:
    July 17th, 2011 at 5:49pm

    Thanks for sharing this.  One suggestion. I’m pretty sure you want to drop the 0 before the 184 in the “From France” phone number.  In fact you should write it this way for all mobile users: +39 184 28 92 49

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  • Triestina said:
    September 17th, 2011 at 10:10am

    Hi,Pim,I discovered your site a few days ago by accident.Well, actually I do not believe in accidentally finding anything..! Anyways,as I was looking for a plum cake recipe  I found that and much more on your site .So far I made your plum jam-my first plum jam-fabulous,the french apple tarte-exquisite,plum cake,yummy and now I am ready to make “Crostata di Fichi” (yes,being that I moved to Italy 3 years ago,I am careful when I pronounce that !) ,and for lunch today-La Mamma’s Braised Rabbit.By the way,I noticed that in her video she talks about using 2 garlic cloves also !
    I enjoy reading all that you write,you have such a gift,findind the greatest recipes and experiences and knowing just the right words and just the right way to make it real for the rest of us….  

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    September 23rd, 2011 at 6:56am

    This is a great recipe.Thanks for sharing

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  • I ♥ food and travel said:
    January 8th, 2012 at 11:00am

    This looks awesome! I don’t know if I’ll get around to trying out out, but I can read and dream! Thanks for sharing. x

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  • Bradley Adams said:
    February 9th, 2012 at 1:01am

    The La Mamma’s Braised Rabbit seems very delicious , I will definitely going to try this using the recipe you added. Thanks a lot.. I will have delicoius lunch this weekend with my family.

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    February 20th, 2013 at 10:42am

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  • rachel said:
    January 6th, 2014 at 2:19pm

    this is not something I have ever considered but looks and sounds great so will give it a whirl!

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