Calabria – searching in Cittanova

I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Cittanova unfortunately (map here). It’s a bit of a grim place due mainly to the fact that it has been levelled a few times by earthquakes, hence the name.

The last one was in 1783 and I’d guess that that’s when many of the buildings date from. Many of them are derelict which gives the place quite an eerie feel at night.

However, all was not lost as I discovered that Cittanova was famous for Stoccofisso (stockfish), Norwegian air dried cod which, as a demi Noggy myself, I find quite gobsmacking (backstory here). I even met locals in Lamezia who said they would happily travel long distances just to eat ‘stocco’ in Cittanova.

Both the following restaurants would be good places to try it…

La Mamma (Intermediate B+/C-), 33 Via San Giuseppe

I came here twice and loved it the first time but hated it the second time, hence the B+/C- grade. The atmosphere is very rustic and traditional and the lady proprietor (la mamma?) was very friendly and welcoming both times.

The first time I had the Fantasia Mediterranea, a fairly typical selection of antipasti including Caponata, Parmagiana, Crochette, Fritelline di Fiore di Zucca and some fresh Ricotta d’Aspromonte (B\B+).

This came with some yellow coloured bruschetta which I’d never encountered before. It seems to be a thing as they sell it in their bar. When I researched it, the closest thing I found was Pane Giallo from Lazio which is made with polenta (semolina).

After this I had the Tris de Stocco, or stockfish prepared in three different ways; fried (A), roasted (B) and stewed (B). I really liked the black olives it came with (B+).

I got a decent bottle of Calabrian white called I Gelsi by Statti for 9€ (B). Not sure why but they don’t seem to put the names of the grapes on bottles of local wine.

I finished with two Cannolini scattered with flakes of chocolate which was great (A).

The final bill with a strange tasting Bergamotto Amaro (B-) and cover was a reasonable 37€.

On my second visit I started with the Stocco Antipasti but unfortunately found the stockfish virtually inedible (C/C-).

And I wasn’t keen on the Greco Bianco/Malvasia white wine blend called Dragone from Lento (C).

But the Tagliatelle Fresche con Fungi Porcini, fresh tagliatelle with ceps saved things a little (B+).

However the final Lemon Cake wasn’t very good (C) and I was given the worst, funky tasting Limoncello I’ve ever had (C-).

Not a great ending then. Unfortunately I drew the conclusion that you can only scrape together one good meal out of what’s available on the menu here. Go with whatever mamma suggests because it’s most likely the best stuff.

This is another ‘good’ restaurant but it’s not really my cup of tea…

Baconchi (High Intermediate B), 1 Via Piave,

This is the place where Cittanovans come to celebrate special occasions. The décor is brilliant white with chairs covered in material that’s tied in a ribbon at the back, so you feel like you’re at a wedding reception.

There are several pages of Stockfish dishes but as I’d had it the night before I was in the mood for something different. I began with the Mozzarella di Bufala which was okay (B).

After this I enjoyed some Zeppoline, deep-fried dough balls (B+).

I asked about what meat was good locally and was directed to the Braciola di Maiale con il Manico, a hefty pork chop, which the waitress described as ‘colosso’, and she wasn’t kidding (B+).

I had it with chips and a bottle of their own label red wine (both B).

With water the bill came to 30€ which is very reasonable for what I had.

Although this place isn’t really my style it is good value and the food is okay so I’d probably go again if I was staying longer.

Il Vecchio Molino (Intermediate B+), 44-46 Via Circonvallazione Est

The Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing in May 2017 and also recommended as the best pizzeria in town by the local school owner. Of all the restaurants, it’s the furthest away from the Hotel Casalnuovo, about twenty five minutes’ walk.

I only went once and had a Piazza Diavolo (with nduja the spreadable spicy Calabrian sausage, and salami picante) which was quite hot but enjoyable (B) if rather thirst inducing. Their draught beer was a bit flat but still just about drinkable (C).

I meant to go back to try the restaurant menu but the extra distance and bland interior wasn’t enticing enough.

There’s a Guinness pub called the Garden Irish Pub just around the corner at 5 Via Ugo Arcuri , but I didn’t get time to try it out. It seems popular with the locals though.

One day after work the teachers took me for an ice cream to a bar over the road from the park entrance. I can’t find the name but it’s on the corner of Via Regina Margherita and Largo Calvio, opposite Gelateria l’Oasi which it shouldn’t be mistaken for.

I had my first experience of the Ice Cream Brioche here. It’s a Sicilian thing apparently so you can’t argue with it as they basically invented modern gelato. It got a bit messy with three balls of strawberry, pistachio and stracciatella but it was very enjoyable (B+).

I stayed at the Hotel Casalnuovo which unfortunately is the only hotel in town. I say unfortunately because it’s a bit of a dump. Brown rusty water came out of the bathroom taps, the Wi-Fi wasn’t great and the breakfast choices are cardboard cornflakes or cakes in plastic packets. If you ask him the grumpy old male owner will begrudgingly make you a substandard Cappuchino.

The worst thing for me was the cockerels who lived next door who started crowing at 4am with their mates the geese joining in a couple of hours later! I’m really not sure how this place awarded itself four stars! I was ecstatic when I managed to leave one night earlier than I was supposed to, by escaping to Tropea for the weekend (see next post).

It’s a tough call for my employer. The only other place, the Uliveto Principessa Park Hotel (no website, but it has a pool in the summer) is right out in the sticks but then again there’s not much to see in Cittanova anyway. The food is the decider for me though (it’s apparently not very good in the Uliveto Principessa) so if I had to come back I’d stay at the Hotel Casalnuovo again just so I can walk to get some decent food. The Agriturismo Da Peppone might be another option though.

There’s not a lot to see and do here although I did stumble upon a free concert in front of the main church, Chiesa Madre, in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi.

They are quite proud of their park as well, the Villa Comunale on Via Carlo Ruggiero, as it has some unusual plants including a Californian Redwood tree.

On the plus side, my stay happily coincided with the local cherry season. When I was walking back to the hotel after work, I’d get a bag from the roadside stall to eat on the way home. Such simple pleasure are the best ones.

Off to Tropea next which is much nicer!

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