Mornings in Catania start with dunking a doughy Sicilian brioche in almond-coffee granita. That alone should be an indicator of the delicious local lifestyle.
With its stately Baroque centro storico, terrific markets, great food and a animated nightlife, Catania – the second largest Sicilian city after Palermo – is strangely often overlooked. We suggest visiting Catania to get a true feel of everyday life on the island. Amid hollering vendors, I love getting lost in the maze of the Pescheria fish market.
A stroll around the city center takes me to the lava stone laced Piazza del Duomo (cathedral square) checking out the Fontana dell’Elefante, a flamboyant fountain featuring a long-trunked, smiling elephant holding a stout Egyptian obelisk on its back.
Walk past the opera house named after Catania-native composer Vincenzo Bellini, inaugurated in 1890 with a performance of the composer’s masterwork, Norma. In Piazza Stesicoro, I always stop to admire the remains of a gorgeous Roman amphitheater. Dotting each of these stops are delightful eating intermezzos: fried arancini, cassatine and heaps of other local specialties. But when it’s time to sit down for lunch or dinner, it’s wise to rely on locals to point out the best restaurants in Catania.
The city brims with quality eateries that are constantly opening to offer food lovers delectable options. Here’s our ever-growing guide to the best places to eat, drink and explore in Catania.
The name of this popular restaurant is the fusion of food and sud (Italian for “South”). Phonetics influence everything listed on the menu. This can be a bit confusing, but the quality of food won’t disappoint: the Parmigiana burger is one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever tasted. www.fud.it
The Amenano river flows under the city of Catania. There are only two outlets where it surfaces: one is in the Piazza del Duomo at the stunning Amenano fountain; the other is in the Agorà hostel. The restaurant-bar is one of the hottest destinations in town. Their couscous selection is some of the best I’ve had north of Tunis. www.agorahostel.com
Me Cumpari Turiddu
Opera lovers will immediately think of Cavalleria Rusticana, but this lively trattoria serves not revenge and duel, rather a vast range of Mediterranean cuisine. Think macco di Leonforte (fava bean puree) or delightful scabbardfish involtini stuffed with roast veggies. Meals are served in the al fresco garden during the warmer months. www.mecumparituriddu.it
Osteria Antica Maria
Overlooking the Pescheria fish market, this notable Catania destination serves seafood in an elegant trattoria vibe. Choose à la carte or select one of the prix fixe menus on seasonal rotation. Whatever you choose, do not forego the house spaghetti with black cuttlefish ink and the butter-soft grilled calamari. www.anticamarina.it
A casual pizzeria whose specialty are the pizzoli – typical pizza sandwiches packed with classic and unusual fillings. The pizza menu features 50 different pies, plus plates of fine cured meats, local cheese and other delights. www.eatpizzeria.it
Once a foundry, this modern cuisine restaurant focuses on locally-sourced ingredients. The quality of the dishes is on point, and the overarching philosophy looks to traditional, wholesome Sicilian recipes and flavors. www.km0ristorante.it
Trattoria del Forestiero
For over 50 years, owner and cook Signora Rosanna De Fiore has been recreating her great-grandmother’s recipes, including the best pasta alla Norma in the universe. Don’t miss Rosanna’s trademark zeppoline: divine sugar-sprinkled ricotta-lemon fritters. Via Coppola 24 – tel. +39 095 316283, no website
When the weather is good, the tables are set on the small pavement waterfront terrace in the harbour district of San Giovanni Li Cuti. Wholesome ingredients and global influences define the menu. The offerings include crisp roasted anchovies with capers, tomatoes and basil, and a vegetable tabbouleh with toasted almonds and couscous. Gluten-free and vegetarian options available. www.cutilisci.it
What’s your favorite restaurant in Catania?
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.