La Pescheria, Catania
31 years old, obsessed with pasta and yet I’d never been to Italy. I know, criminal right? Well all that CHANGED a couple of months ago with, what was probably, one of the best trips of my life. Remember when we met an amazing Sicilian chef, Matteo, who came to cook for us courtesy of La Belle Assiette? Well, he invited us out to his digs in Catania and promised to show us a WHOLE NEW WORLD of culinary delights.
And man, he did not disappoint.
Catania is on the Ionian coast of Sicily, standing in the wake of Mount Etna (which we flew right past on the inbound flight!).
A hop, skip and a jump from the airport and we were right in the thick of it. And guys, it is cool. The buildings are so epic and beautiful, with graffiti scrawled all over them with tonnes of attitude. It’s a University city, so there’s tonnes of students around, as well as hardened old fishermen flogging their wares at the world famous fish market, and opera lovers flocking to pay their dues to the town’s most famous resident, Bellini.
The main point of our trip was THE FOOD let’s be honest, but I’ll dedicate a WHOLE OTHER post about the restaurants and cafes we went to as it actually blew my mind.
As I’ve mentioned the fish market, lets start there. This is literally street theatre at its best. Every morning hundreds of traders gather to sell seafood straight off the boat from that night. From massive stalls with a gang of young men in tight t-shirts yelling about their wares, to solo old men with a solitary bucket of clams, there is all manner of life in between.
It is LOUD and theatrical. All along the perimeter are bars and cafes so you can grab a beer and a cone of some freshly fried squid and watch as things unfold. One morning we were there, a band starting playing and a bunch of fish vendors came out from behind their stalls and starting dancing with some Sicilian nonnas-honestly, you couldn’t write this stuff! (Vegan chums- look away now there’s some fishy pics coming up <3)
If fish are friends and not food- there’s still plenty on offer. Away from the pesce palace the surrounding streets erupt into a labyrinth of other stalls- fruits and veg as colourful as a laminated rainbow, freshly roasted nuts and seeds, cheese piled precariously high, piping hot roasted onions, soft loaves fresh from the oven- you name it, it’s here.
We visited the market every single day we were there, it was that entertaining. One day we had raw tuna pressed into our mouths, the next we were biting down on juicy cherries, warmed by the sun. Matteo took us on a special trip one day to introduce us to his favourite suppliers and buy ingredients for lunch. He showed us fresh prawns (which are legit so fresh, you can eat them raw!) and pointed out the blue roe underneath.
We met his dairy guys and they supplied us with a heaving plate of Sicilian cheeses, fresh ricotta, cold meats and antipasti for lunch. HEAVEN.
The nut roasting guys actually blew my mind. Pistachios straight out of the roaster are SO UNREAL. They taste totally different to the ones we get in bags over here. Needless to say, we came back with bags laden with foodie goodies to take home. Sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, pistachio pesto, parmegannio, cherries- just EVERYTHING we could realistically fit into our suitcase.
We toddled back to the apartment and Matteo set to cooking up an absolute storm in the kitchen because he is an absolute WIZARD!
Arancini balls, Sicilian red prawns, squid ink risotto, roasted white fish and to finish, cannoli from the best dessert place in Catania.
If you are after a foodie experience, I honestly can’t recommend Catania and La Pescheria enough! I am already trying to work out when we can go back! Viva L’Italia!
We were very kindly hosted by Matteo, but all words and opinions are my own!