Catania is the perfect place to indulge a passion for Italian cuisine. Find the best restaurants and hotels to stay in Catania with our great travel guide.
Catania’s narrow, warren-like streets hide an array of gems. Wander through them and you’ll find Italian trattoria that haven’t changed their menu in decades, Sicilian street snacks sold along the way, and romantic hideaways where you eat the pasta of the gods. If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Catania, they’re all in this guide.
Stay in Etna’s Shadow
Catania hasn’t really experienced mass tourism, so don’t expect to be flooded with choice when you’re looking for a place to call home during your vacation here. This also means the gorgeous historic center of the city has retained all of its rugged charm and character.
You’ll be in the thick of things at the Una Hotel Palace, a former palazzo built in the early years of the 20th century on Via Etnea. Inside you’ll find restrained elegance with a palate leaning heavily on whites and creams for a minimalist, airy feel. If you’re treating yourself, there’s a two-level suite with two bathrooms. Perhaps best of all is the roof bar and restaurant, Etnea Roof, with its far-ranging views of Sicily’s famed volcano. It’s the perfect place to park the car for the day and sip cocktails or enjoy a light meal – the lamb in marsala sauce is rightly raved about.
Step outside and you’re surrounded by stores, cafes, and restaurants. If you’ve worked up a sweat window shopping or on the tourist trail, make for Pasticceria Savia, also on Via Etnea. It serves up some of the best gelato in Sicily, plus superb ricotta cannoli, cassata, and pastries. Go for the hazelnut gelato, either in a cone or a buttery brioche bun. They’re famed for their savory offerings too, with lines forming for arancini – deep-friend balls of risotto rice – at lunchtime. The specialty is the Catanese, with cheese, basil, ham, and eggplant.
A Lunch Date with Norma
Every Italian city does pasta a little different, and Catania is no exception. Here the watchwords are homemade and uncomplicated, with fresh pasta combined with bold flavors and high-quality ingredients. The local signature dish is pasta alla Norma (named for an opera by local composer Bellini). Served everywhere, it’s a perfect marriage of pasta (the shape doesn’t seem to matter too much), eggplant, tomatoes, and a dusting of grated salted ricotta.
Choosing where to indulge in a bowl is the tricky thing. Following the locals is usually a good idea, so take yourself to Al Tortellino on Via Giuseppe Simili. Simple but hearty, you can get exemplary Norma here, but also pasta with pistachio sausage, pizza, and fresh fish.
After bowlfuls of pasta, you’ll probably need to sleep it off. In which case, reserve a room at Hotel Villa Romeo. The location is impeccable, close to the coast on Via Platamone, and rooms come with balconies facing the picturesque courtyard. There are three terraces here, too. Strewn with plants and flowers, they’re wonderful places to escape the city for a drink or a siesta. Rooms are traditional but comfortable, service is friendly and helpful, and they’ll happily recommend some great local places to eat and drink.
For travelers with food intolerances, the language barrier can sometimes be an issue – how do you ensure your food is prepared properly when you can’t speak to the owner or waiter? Luckily, there’s a strong celiac society in Italy – the AIC – that works with restaurants to improve standards and certify some of them as recommended. They provide a handy searchable database of hotels, cafes, and restaurants they monitor. A quick look will steer you towards bakeries and pasticcerias offering gluten-free options.
At Acido Lattico, you can enjoy pizza that some believe is the best outside Naples. The simple Neapolitan pizza here is ambrosial, with a blistered crust and amazing toppings. Food for celiacs is prepared and cooked separately to avoid contamination, and there’s a great view of tennis and beach volleyball courts.
Right in the heart of the old town, La Risotteria also goes out of its way to ensure a great choice of gluten-free dishes – the seafood risotto, in particular, is sublime.
A Taste of Luxury
While Catania makes a virtue of being unpretentious and honest, there’s luxury to be enjoyed here. Bag a room at the only five-star hotel in town – the Romano Palace – and you can expect to be pampered throughout your stay. With its outdoor pool and waterfront location, it’s ideal for unwinding after a day of exploring the squares and streets. Plus, it’s close to the airport, allowing you to make the most of your precious vacation time with a quick arrival or getaway. Suites come with a jacuzzi and terrace, but quality is high across all room types.
One of the great people-watching spots in the city, La Pescheria fish market, should be high on your to-do list. You’ll also find one of the best restaurants in Catania here. Reservations are essential at Osteria Antica Marina, but worth it for the fish market views and fresh seafood. There’s a range of tasting menus if you want to put your trust in the chef, or opt for sensational a la carte dishes such as swordfish tartare, mussel soup, linguine with sea urchins, or local mullet. Combined with local white wine after a day of sightseeing – it’s Catanian bliss. Just make sure the car is parked for the day.
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