I’ve decided to dedicate a whole post to the pescheria, or fish market, of Catania, for a few reasons. The first one is that it’s super lively and fun, and I’d consider it a “must see” if you’re visiting the city.
The second is that it’s a really unique market, because it attracts a lot of tourists, but still seems to cater to locals.
The third is that at night, there are restaurants in it that cook and serve up the best catches of the day, and you absolutely must eat at one of them during your time in Catania!
Luggage and Life’s guide to the Catania Fish Market and Osteria Antica Marina
Shopping at the market
Technically, the pescheria refers to the part of the market where fish is sold, however, there is a whole area adjacent to the fish market where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, meats, and a whole bunch of other things.
On our first day, we explored both parts of the market.
We bought a bag of vegetables to make stuffed peppers for dinner, which cost us a whopping 2 euros.
We also bought some rolls and cold cuts for lunch and made sandwiches.
Like I said before, the market is really cool because Catanesi shop there. Yes, tourists wander in and out, but it still seemed to be an authentic experience of the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, I say browse around and buy a few things to cook while you’re there.
La Pescheria – The Fish Market
The following day we delved a bit deeper into the area of the market where the fish is sold, which is where the real magic happens. The fishermen yell out what they’re selling, and sometimes the cost of it, and also throw in some jokes in dialect that provoke raucous laughter up and down the busy street. Here’s a video of the action.
There is a rich variety of items on display. The market is crowded and loud, but it’s one of those places that’s incredibly vibrant and full of life and really provides a window onto the local culture. It seems like lots of Catanesi like to shop for the freshest items they can get their hands on, and rightly so.
Definitely walk around and soak up the busy, buzzy life that’s happening there. Also, pro tip: don’t wear sandals – the fishermen wash a lot of waste right onto the ground, so it gets pretty wet and gutsy, especially near clean up time!
Eating at the market
After your walking tour of the city (post forthcoming) and a bit of a rest, head back to the market for dinner. Two places were recommended to us, which are actually right across from each other in the market area. The first was Mm! Trattoria, and the second was Osteria Antica Marina. We ate at the latter. Check out their website here.
Definitely reserve a table if you want to eat at either of these places, as they’re both extremely popular!
Dining at Osteria Antica Marina
At Osteria Antica Marina, we decided to go for their prix fixe offerings.
I chose the Vicerè, which consisted of an antipasto buffet, a generous portion of grilled fish, salad, sorbet, water, and coffee, and my sweetheart went for the more abundant Malavoglia. His choice included the same antipasto buffet, sorbet, water, and coffee, but came with two tasting portions of pasta, fried fish, a tomato salad, and dessert! A friend that we were with chose a delicious bottle of cold, crisp, local white wine, made from grapes grown in the fertile ash of nearby Mount Etna.
We ate like royalty and every last bite was delicious. I’d also like to add that the service at Osteria Antica Marina was wonderful. The staff answered all of our questions and were really friendly.
We started with several small dishes from the antipasto buffet, and each one was great. They were all very different, which I loved, because we got to try so many different things in small bites. There were some cold salads made with fresh vegetables and tangy caponata. There was tender, marinated octopus, delicate, tiny telline, hearty, rich swordfish, and savory couscous.
Next, my sweetheart’s pasta dishes arrived. Luckily, he understands that sharing is caring (and also that I would probably kick him hard under the table if he didn’t let me taste his food).
First came thick spaghetti with fresh, salty clams and greens from the sea, which added a unique twist to a well-known dish.
The second one was something I’ve always been intrigued by, but have never tried. It was a few plump, delicious ravioli in a squid-ink sauce, served with a dollop of ricotta.
I make it a point to try new things, even if I don’t think I’ll like them, and I’m so glad I tried this. Eating it was a full sensory experience, from the inky-black color of the sauce, to the lightness of the ricotta, to the soft pillows of delicious pasta that made up the backbone of the dish.
The sauce was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever tasted. It’s difficult to describe, but it was thick, rich, and smooth. I can’t really think of anything to compare it to, but I’d definitely eat it again!
After that our main courses arrived. We both had plates of mixed fish, mine grilled, and Jeremy’s fried.
I was excited about the swordfish since it’s one of my favorites, but the shrimp stole the show. It was so fresh, so delicious, and so perfectly fried that I couldn’t stop talking about it, even the next day. I talked about it so much that Jeremy looked at me at one point, with his eyebrows knitted together in confusion, and said, “I’ve never known anyone who has had a life-changing prawn.”
Finally, our light, sweet, citrusy sorbet arrived. They were as yummy as they were pretty, the perfect, refreshing exclamation point for our scrumptious meal.
We thought that was it, but then a plate of cassatelle (or cassateddi, in the local dialect) and coffee arrived. Cassatelle are a kind of fried turnover filled with sweet ricotta. Somehow, how we made room in our bursting stomachs to try them, and they were, of course, delicious. The pastry was puffy and crispy, and the ricotta was light and sweetened just enough.
We made our way home, happy and full, and ready to sleep until the sounds of the pescheria woke us in the morning.
Want more Catania?
Check out my walking tour of Catania here!
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