La Banchina – Nighttime Pane Condito – Catania

My hockey teammates have a ritual of going out to get food after practice during the week.  Keep in mind that our practices usually end around 11pm.  This is another example of the difference in culture in that most Americans dont have a regular midnight meal. 🙂 One of the favorite spots is La Banchina where we get a delicious Pane Condito.  Pane Condito translates to “Seasoned Bread”, but the reality is that its a huge doughnut shaped sandwich that is thrown in the pizza oven.  You have all different options in terms of the contents of the sandwich that range from all the usual Italian suspects like pomodoro, prosciutto crudo, salame, and mozzarella.  Pictures of menu are below.

You can find many places that serve Pane Condito around Sicily and the Catania area.  La Banchina (Translates to “the pier”) is located just outside of downtown Catania (Via del rotolo 42, Catania)  My teammates seem to prefer this particular place and I can see why.  The Pane Condito has a great balance of flavor between the bread and the fillings.  If I need to be rolled off the plane when I return back to the States 300 lbs. heavier, this will probably be one of the reasons.   When in Sicily right?

Click on the first image below for the slideshow

Red Devil

There is a place that we drove by everyday on our commute home that would be filling the air with tons of smoke and great scents of barbecue.  We always tried to pinpoint where this smoke was coming from.  First its tough because at the same time Im trying to avoid multiple cars trying to run me off the road… and for kicks a few double occupied cell phone talkers on vespas squeezing in between the Mario Andrettis around me.  Second its tough to pinpoint these places because they are very elusive.   There are no signs or distinguishable features from one building to the next for the most part.  Not like in the States where you have a very well lit sign and a corresponding parking lot.  One day it was clear as day when we saw the big Red Devil outside… next was trying to find  parking.

The Red Devil as we call it (and come to find out other people call it this as well) is a Sicilian style fast food place.  No seating available.  Glass cases filled with all sorts of very good looking food.. all to go.  The star of the show are the rotisserie chickens that they cook right outside by the red devil. These chickens blow away the Costco chickens with some extra flavoring that I couldn’t figure out right away, but I found in the cavity of the bird after eating.  So for those of you with the Costco chickens as a staple of your American diet we got you covered out here… all without the annoying oversized shopping carts and 3 lb jugs of mayonnaise.   You just have to walk in and say ” Un pollo!”  and your good to go for 4 or 5 euro.  I also got the artichokes, which are growing in many of the farmlands around our work location.  It was a great combo that I recommend trying at the Red Devil.

Below are the pictures from my first time in the Red Devil, we have been back a couple times since.

Click on the first picture for the slideshow.

Zu Maru and Aci Castello

Staying local we went to a casual seafood place near us called Zu Maru.  We pass this place everyday on our way to work and it always seemed like a popular place.  They also have a fresh seafood market next door that looks really good.  Definitely a great little spot.

We went to Aci Castello afterwards, which is the town closest to our house.  Its a very cool place with a castle that was built with lava rock in the 11th century!  More than 400 years before “Columbus sailed the ocean blue” !  Unfortunately the castle was closed for touring when we were there today, but we will be back.  After seeing how beautiful the water was looking today we went back to the house grabbed our swimsuits and came back for a swim.

Here some info on the castle:

Built of black lava stone, this Norman fortress stands atop a spur of rock high above the cobalt-blue sea, just outside Catania. Owing to its strategic importance, it has been a fortified strong post since Roman times, when this was the site of the Rocca Saturnia. It was conquered by Roger de Hauteville and his Normans in 1072 after his victory over the Arabs. Destroyed several times, it was rebuilt by King Tancredi in 1189. It is still possible to admire the original structure and the splendid pointed arches. The castle was later ceded to the bishops of Catania, who here in 1126 received the relics of St Agatha when they were brought back home from Constantinopolis. In 1169 there was a disastrous eruption of Mount Etna, which reached the village of Aci and the crag that emerges from the sea but which did only partial damage to the fortress at its base. The castle, from the end of the 13th cent. until the age of the viceroys, witnessed the struggles that pitted the Aragonese of Sicily against the Angevins of Naples. During the 16th cent. the castle passed through various private hands until becoming a prison under the Bourbons in 1787. Today, of the castle, one can still admire a tower, a fair part of the central body, and most importantly the dominant position over the sea. From this high point one can enjoy a fine panorama of the Faraglioni of the Cyclops and the Isle of Lachea. Inside the castle there is a little Museum with an interesting collection of minerals and archaeological items.

 

McDonalds ?

Does this look like McDonalds?

McDonalds?

I don’t see the monotonous and bland interior, nor do I see the random mystery stains on the tables or on the attached plastic chairs.

Okay I guess the Italians got it right with all the design work on the interior, but the food can’t be as good right?  I’m a somewhat embarrassed American when I say that their food is actually better… and to add insult to injury…  they serve Peroni beer!

 

 

There are a few McDonalds in the area, two of which are brand new.  The brand new McDonalds are near a couple of recently built malls that are also very nice. ( Centro Sicilia and Etnapolis)  Jess is a big fan of these malls.

I know this seems ridiculous to have a post about McDonalds of all places,  but the McDonalds here are unbelievable.  I hope that this is a trend that continues with new McDonalds back in the States.  Its a completely different experience.  With these Sicilian McDonalds I’m actually proud to say that I’ve been a McDonalds shareholder for some time.  It’s a great way for us to get a taste of being back home in America with an Italian flair.

We almost feel proud to be American when we go in and see the Italians enjoying.  It feels like our own home field in Sicily… its fun to order the food knowing that we are saying it correctly for a change.  No Francesco…  it’s not “Chess Borgor” …. its “Cheeseburger”  🙂