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From Gascogne’s prized ducks to the buckwheat gallettes of Bretagne, each chunk of France has its distinct food traditions. In Marseille, the capital of Provence, the recipes brim with the region’s olive oil, garlic and tomatoes as well as plenty of Mediterranean fish. On menus around town, you’ll find an anchoïade here or artichauts à la barigoule (braised artichokes) there, but it is hard to find a restaurant that is fully devoted to the Provençal classics.

Chez Madie les Galinettes is one of the few. From alouettes sans tête (beef roll ups in tomato sauce) to soupe de poisson, the menu reads like a Marseille mamie’s (grandmother’s) cookbook. You’ll feel like you’re dining in a local’s home, thanks to the familial warmth of its ebullient owner, Delphine Roux. “We’re just here to make people happy,” she enthuses, her words a far cry from the pretention that can plague Parisian establishments.

Delphine will send a basket of crispy panisses (the city’s signature chickpea fritters) as an appreciative wink to her loyal clients or to tide a table over between courses. If she overhears someone raving about the risotto, she’ll have the waiter deliver an extra scoop to spoil them. The coffee, brewed using beans from iconic local roaster Café Luciani, comes with a homemade canelé, made with Marseille pastis instead of rum. Pleasure is “my favorite part of business,” says the bubbly blonde, as she hops between tables to greet the many regulars, her laugh echoing across the terrace.

Chez Madie sits on the northern side of the Vieux-Port, beneath Fernand Pouillon’s post-war apartments and beside the little blue-and-white train that chugs visitors around town. This location actually deterred us from dining here at first, since the Quai du Port is infamous for its touristy terraces that hawk overpriced bouillabaisse.

But things were different 25 years ago. When Delphine opened in 1995, the Vieux-Port was the dodgy place depicted in Marseille noir novels that should be avoided at night. “I never thought I’d open a restaurant here,” she confesses, but it was the only place the young chef could afford. The worn space needed a serious makeover, but the postcard view was priceless: wooden fishing barquettes in the foreground as the Bonne Mére beamed from above.

And, when Delphine discovered the previous owner, Madie, cooked the same classic dishes she loved, she was hooked. The budding restaurateur decided to keep the name – now many clients and purveyors call her “Madie” – and added galinettes for a personal touch. A Mediterranean fish, a little chicken, and a cut of beef used in daube provençale (a regional stew), galinettes embodies Provence and lets diners know they can find the best of terre (land) and mer (sea) here.

Delphine “bathed in Provençal cooking as a kid.” Her Haute-Provence grandmother was an “amazing chef” while her dad, André, was a chevillard (meat wholesaler) in a family business that began in 1902. He regards a meat locker full of hanging lamb carcasses like a “kid in a candy store,” jokes Delphine.

At 77, the retired André still helps his daughter out, hitting the markets at 5 a.m. to source fruits, vegetables and meat, and then prepping the meat at the restaurant. A specialist in abats (offal), he was the one who suggested serving lamb alibofils. A testament to Delphine’s sense of humor, the testicles have been a fixture on the menu since day one.

Many of Chez Madie les Galinettes’ dishes are longstanding, due to her desire to uphold tradition – and her devotion to customer service.

Many of Chez Madie les Galinettes’ dishes are longstanding, due to her desire to uphold tradition – and her devotion to customer service. “I can’t remove something because some customers come specifically for the dish,” she explains. Like pieds et paquets, the pungent Marseille specialty of stewed lamb’s feet and tripe, or the succulent milk-fed Averyon lamb (agneau). Its unfussy preparation – studded with garlic then browned in butter and olive oil – embodies her credo of “simple products cooked simply.”

Sometimes, Delphine infuses the classics with her own twist. Her signature palourdes au thym are local clams simmered in Provençal thyme and cream, an homage to her Normandy mom. Traditionally, bourride, fish stew flavored with aïoli, is served with white fish. Delphine prefers to highlight the local catch. The day we ordered this trilogie Provençale, we feasted on rascasse (a red rockfish), vive (a skinny silver-skinned fish), and cabillaud (cod). Though the mouthwatering broth tastes like it is laden with butter and cream, it is the garlicky mayo that gives it its rich flavor.

Unlike many Marseille restaurants, Chez Madie’s bouillabaisse is an affordable €47 and doesn’t need to be ordered 24 hours in advance. While the mythical dish has become more popular with tourists, most of the customers who order it here are actually Marseillais celebrating a birthday, anniversary or milestone. The abundance of local diners – including fellow Gourméditerranée chefs and nearby workers – adds to the conviviality.

The staff is also made up of regulars. A trio of cooks has run the kitchen for 18 years, and one waiter, Philippe, has served since the opening. Even the colorful art that livens the dining room walls and the outdoor terrace is part of the Chez Madie family. Beloved local artist Thierry Miramon became fast friends with Delphine and later the godfather of her son after he began organizing art openings at the restaurant.

For the restaurant’s 20th anniversary, Miramon painted Delphine under a “Putain 20 ans” banner (the oft-used Marseille putain is akin to the four-letter word that rhymes with duck). Depicted with her signature toothy grin and her arms stretched wide, she looks ready to welcome diners – it’s an accurate picture of everyday life at the restaurant.

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Published on July 27, 2020

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