Catania, like the rest of Sicily, is a city rich in history and culture. Its cuisine has been influenced by various dominations over the centuries, resulting in a mix of flavors that have blended over time to create a diverse offering that ranges from sweet to savory and can rival any other region in Italy.

The list of dishes and “things” to eat and drink is potentially endless, and in some cases, it is difficult to say if their origin is strictly Catanese or not. But one thing is certain, you will be spoiled for choice in the city.

In Sicily, there are no objective opinions about food; everything is subjective and can be debated. What follows is not a ranking, but more of a map of flavors to guide you during your stay in the city.

Pasta alla norma

This pasta dish is the quintessential representation of the city of Catania. The recipe has only four ingredients: pasta, fried eggplant, salted ricotta, and basil.

There is no certainty about its origin, but the most accredited version is that writer Nino Martoglio exclaimed during a gala lunch, “it’s a Norma,” in homage to the namesake opera by the famous Etnean composer Vincenzo Bellini.
The recipe can be served with some variations compared to the traditional one, which is mainly consumed in summer because it is the season when tomatoes and eggplants are most flavorful. The eggplant should be cut into one-centimeter slices, not cubes (as often found in restaurants for convenience). Additionally, the type of pasta recommended is spaghetti or macaroni. The rare “Mafalda riccia,” a type of pasta that is increasingly less common, is a sort of wide fettuccine with wavy edges. Finally, the salted ricotta should exclusively be fresh for grating and not baked.

Pasta alla norma
Pasta alla norma

Pasta with Masculini alla Catanese

First, let’s clarify that masculini are small-sized anchovies. This first course is less famous than Pasta alla Norma and less widespread than the more famous Palermo-style pasta with sardines. It is a simple dish made with masculine, tomato sauce, onion, wild fennel, and breadcrumbs. There are variations that also include pine nuts, raisins, and peas.

Pasta with Masculini alla Catanese
Pasta with Masculini alla Catanese

Arancino

The symbol of Sicilian cuisine finds its highest expression in Catania. While recent variations on the theme are endless, three classic flavors stand out:

  • Arancino al ragù: Shaped like a pyramid and contains minced or chopped beef;
  • Arancino alla catanese: With eggplant, tomato, and salted ricotta, in an oval shape;
  • Arancino agli spinaci: With spinach and cheese, in a spherical shape.
Arancino
Arancino

Cipollina

It certainly hasn’t had the luck of the Arancino, but it is one of the items that characterizes the hot table of Catania. Ingredients include puff pastry, onion, tomato, cheese (mozzarella or provola), and black olives. Unfortunately, over time, cooked ham has been added, and it is almost impossible to find a version without it in the city. The bar Privitera, in Piazza Santa Maria del Gesù, a few steps from our headquarters, is an exception.

Cipollina
Cipollina

Scacciata catanese

This focaccia was traditionally consumed on Christmas Eve and during the holiday season in the city, but now it is available almost all year round in bakeries, except in summer.

It comes in various versions, but we recommend the traditional ones:

  • Tuma (a fresh pecorino) and anchovy;
  • Cauliflower, seasoned cheese, fresh onion, and olives;
  • Broccoli and sausage.
Scacciata catanese
Scacciata catanese

Caponata catanese

A vegetarian dish that captures the essence of Sicily includes eggplant, zucchini, red and green peppers, potatoes, olives, raisins, capers, pine nuts, tomato, celery, and basil. The ingredients are fried separately and then mixed together with sugar and vinegar to create an extraordinary sweet and sour flavor.

Caponata catanese
Caponata catanese

Granita

In Catania, granita is the queen of summer breakfasts, to be consumed strictly with the “brioscia col tuppo,” a brioche with an added small ball of dough. Traditional flavors include almond, coffee, lemon, and chocolate, but many fruit flavors can be found in bars. Additionally, granita is not only consumed for breakfast but also as a refreshing dessert at lunch or dinner instead of ice cream.

Granita
Granita

Minnuzze and Olivette di Sant’Agata

These are two traditional sweets of the feast of Catania’s patron saint, Sant’Agata. The “minnuzze” are single-serving desserts made with sponge cake, ricotta cheese, marzipan, and a candied cherry in the center, resembling the “small breast” (minuzza) of Sant’Agata, which was torn off as part of her martyrdom.

The “olivette,” shaped like olives and green in color, are made of almond paste and coated with sugar.

Minnuzze and Olivette di Sant’Agata
Minnuzze and Olivette di Sant’Agata

Fried Iris

The “iris” is a milk bread roll filled with custard or chocolate cream, dipped in egg, breaded with breadcrumbs, and fried. Fortunately, for several years now, a mini version has been available because the original size is quite large.

Fried Iris
Fried Iris

Seltzer Lemon and Salt and Syrups at the Kiosk

Around Catania, particularly in the historic center, you will come across kiosks that are very popular with locals for their refreshing drinks. The most well-known drink is of Arab origin and is made with seltzer (super carbonated water), salt, and lemon juice. Also refreshing are the green or red mandarin syrups to be enjoyed with lemon juice.

Seltzer Lemon and Salt and Syrups at the Kiosk
Seltzer Lemon and Salt and Syrups at the Kiosk

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