What to eat in Catania: Street Food and local specialties
Catania street food
Anyone who travels to Sicily should know that in our region food is sacred. If you are a food lover, Catania should be on top of your travel destinations. Here you will find the perfect mix for an unforgettable holiday: delicious food, beaches, art, culture and fun! Do not miss our suggestions about local specialties. While you are sightseeing, take a break and stop to taste our delicacies!
“Arancini” are the typical Catania street food that you can find in cafés at any time.
Arancino or arancina are among the best-known delicacies of sicilian cuisine. These fried rice balls (their diameter is about 8 cm) are typically filled with ragout, mozzarella and peas. They get their name from their distinctive shape and colour, as they look like oranges. The most popular versions are “arancino al ragù” (with meat, tomato sauce, peas and carrots), “arancino al burro” (stuffed with mozzarella, ham and béchamel), and “agli spinaci” (with spinaches and mozzarella). Moreover, in Catania you can find arancino alla norma (filled with eggplants) and arancino with Bronte’s pistachio. You may also find some “experimental” variations including mushrooms, sausages, gorgonzola cheese, salmon, chicken, sword fish, seafood and squid ink. There are also sweet arancini, filled with chocolate and covered with sugar (they are usually prepared on Santa Lucia festival), arancini stuffed with “gianduia” (hazelnut) cream (especially in Palermo) or arancini with chocolate cream. Normally, slightly different shapes have different ingredients inside. If you want to taste arancini, do not miss café Spinella, located in the heart of Catania historical center.
The most typical street food in Catania is grilled meat. This tradition is usually called “arrusti e mangia”, which literally means “grill it and have it”, to highlight that this is the quickest and easiest way to cook and eat meat, without any complicated preparation. This tradition is extremely popular; if you want to try arrusti e mangia, have a walk in via Plebiscito, one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Catania historical center. There you will find plenty of trattorias where you can taste several kinds of grilled meat. We especially recommend some places like Re Carlo V and Al tenerissimo to all meat lovers.
Horse meat and donkey meat are among the most typical ones. The most particular thing about these trattorias is that you can choose what to eat from a refrigerated counter and the owner will grill it immediately for you.
Do not miss pasta alla norma (tomato sauce, eggplants and ricotta cheese) in your culinary tour around Catania!
Made with macaroni, tomato sauce, fried eggplants, ricotta cheese and fresh basil, “pasta alla norma” is the authentic symbol of Sicilian cuisine. As it has happened to other Sicilian recipes, pasta alla norma is a Catania specialty that has become popular in the whole island (and even farther). Its name was allegedly invented by Nino Martoglio, a famous comedy writer from Catania, who liked this delicious recipe so much that he compared it to another famous “Norma”, the masterpiece created by Vincenzo Bellini, the greatest opera composer from Catania. One day, Nino Martoglio was enjoying his dish of macaroni and he was so excited that he supposedly exclaimed: ““Chista è ‘na vera Norma!“, “This is a real Norma!”
You can find pasta alla norma in any trattoria in the historical center.
You can not leave Sicily without trying cannoli, our iconic pastry. Their taste is unique, and the contrast between the crispy shell and the ricotta cream filling is the perfect combination for all sweets lovers. You can find baked Sicilian cannoli all year round in Catania’s pastry shops, but for locals, they are a the must eat especially on Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
If you are a sweet tooth, you should also taste cassatelle, filled with ricotta and covered with almond paste, and almond cookies. This is a very ancient recipe, presumably from the XXII century. Almond cookies were probably invented in a convent in Palermo called “La Martorana”, located near the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, which gets its name from Giorgio d’Antiochia, the king’s officer. Almond paste is also known as “pasta reale” which literally means “royal pastry”, as it was considered to be the perfect dessert for a king
If you want to try these delicacies, we suggest that you go to bar Savia, one of the best Catania’s pastry shops.
Last but not least it’s “granita”. After a long walk around the historical center, you will enjoy this icy treat for sure. You can find several creamy nut flavors like almond (mandorle) and pistachio (pistacchio) and also seasonal fruit flavors like strawberry (fragola) or mulberry (gelsi). If you want to have breakfast like a local, do not forget to take also a soft and warm brioche.