One of my favourite things to do in Catania is wander around the fish market. It starts in in Piazza Alonzo di Benedetto, just off the main square Piazza Duomo. Fishermen from the small boats display their catches here. My video here.
The main market continues in the tunnel running through the old city wall and into Piazza Pardo on the other side, which is where all the regular fishmongers have their stalls.
It’s generally considered to be the best fish market in Italy, by dint of the huge variety of top quality produce available.
Due to the narrow gap formed by the Straits of Messina just up the coast, these waters are the best in the Med for catching swordfish.
One of my favourite fish to eat is the beautiful Spatola (Scabbard Fish). It’s easy to prepare as it has no scales.
Not sure I’d want to grapple with a pissed-off octopus though.
Photo ops abound. Please click on the gallery to go whole screen.
As you’d expect, there are some great seafood restaurants down here. My favourite is La Paglia (Elementary A) at 23 Via Pardo (closed Sundays). It’s a downmarket option with traditional granny cooking as I like to call it. You can have a great three course seafood meal here at a very reasonable price. I’ve been twice, in 2008 and 2009, but it was still going strong when I last walked past in 2019.
On my 2009 visit I had the Antipasti di Mare which involved a fried sardine coated in breadcrumbs and I think stuffed with bottarga and pine nuts (B), a plate of delicious Telline, tiny clams that look like butterflies when open (A), raw prawns with peperoncino and parsley (A) and an Insalata di Mare of octopus, mussels, squid (B+), all mopped up with delicious sesame seed bread (A). For the next course I had spaghetti with squid, prawns, octopus and vongole clams, which didn’t look very appetising, and wasn’t al dente, but was really delicious! Some of the prawns had been fried giving a contrasting taste and texture but what really made it was that the pasta had been finished in the sauce (B+).
My friend Nicky had Zuppa di Vongole e Cozze which she thought had been cooked in sea water due to the deliciously salty stock (B+). To drink we had a bottle of Cataro Grillo ‘Rampante’ (Russo, Bianco di Etna IGT) white (B) and Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOC red (Etna Terre di Giurfo ’04) (B) and a glass of disappointing Zibibbo dessert wine (C). The lemon sorbet with wild strawberries finished things off well though (B). Total cost for two, a meagre €65. Great food and great hospitality from the lovely old lady who runs the place.
A new addition to the market on my visit in 2019 was Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab at 7 Piazza Alonzo Di Benedetto. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall place where I had a great Cartoccio di Mare (fried sardines and other seafood traditionally served in a brown paper cone) and an excellent craft beer (both A) for a quick lunch. They do vegetable only cones too.
Of the other restaurants around the market, Osteria Antica Marina next door to La Paglia at 29 Via Pardo is much posher and isn’t easy to get into. Book ahead and specify a table, or end up next to the door, or go to La Paglia as we did. Over the road was another newcomer in 2019. MM!! Trattoria at 34 Via Pardo has a good rep for food but I didn’t like the service and ended up walking out. The same year a local AirBnB host recommended Pescheria Fratelli Vittorio at 1 Via Cardinale Dusmet but sadly I ran out of time and didn’t get to go.
You’ll find everywhere mentioned on my Google map. There’s a key top left, and more info when you click on the pins.
Off to the fruit and veg market next!