BEAUTIFUL AND GRITTY

This past weekend we acclimated to Italy by spending it in Catania – walking a lot – immersing ourselves in the culture. By day, Catania is not a beautiful city. It’s industrial with few cultural attractions. You could easily dismiss it without the right attitude. The local market was pretty famous so we explored it early one morning, watching the vendors set up and call out to each other. Each display of produce or meat or fish was artfully crafted. It was a little scary to watch the old guys with cigarette hanging out of their mouths hacking up big slabs of beef (or whatever) and refrigeration seemed like an after thought. Ted tried roasted chestnuts for the first time. And for the record, I ate marinated artichoke hearts and loved them. (Yes it’s me – must be the air here or something cause normally those would not have passed my lips!) We found a little hole in the wall trattoria that was recommended for dinner. Of course we were early – 7:30 p.m. when most Italians are just getting ready to go out for their evening walk before even thinking about dinner. But the chef and Ted had developed a relationship (lots of hand gestures) so they opened early for us. We had the restaurant to ourselves and the chef catered to us exclusively. We had rollini which was very very thin bread (kind of like pizza crust only really thin) with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella & EVOO etc, rolled up and baked. They were very good. Then the last night we went to another restaurant – a little more upscale – absolutely no english spoken and nothing written in english. I used my little Italy restaurant translator and ordered our entire meal in Italian. I was very proud. We had the most creamy fresh buffalo mozzarella withproscuitto, agnolotti (filled pasta) covered in a pistachio cream sauce (OMG), and fritto misto (fresh shrimp and calamari lightly battered and fried). It was all delicious. Then of course, gelato on the walk back to the hotel. In Catania we looked for the beauty and what we found was that the people are friendly and open, the food is great, and by night the city is transformed. The architecture is ornate and mixed – a roman column here a greek stature there. The streets are paved in lava stone (too cool). When the sun goes down and the shadows deepen the buildings take on a character and presence that is dramatic, a little gritty but beautiful in it’s own way. We are glad we visited. P.S. The pistachio pesto is fantastic and we are bringing some home. Can’t get enough!

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