I am a huge believer in trying new things. In all my travels, I’ve learned that the cleanest and most expensive looking isn’t always best. Follow the locals – Where it’s full you have a) a high turnover of food and b) it’s got to be really good.
So, at this point I will probably alienate half my readers, but here goes…..
Catania is number 1 in Europe for eating ‘Carne di Cavaddo’ A.K.A horse meat. I think I am probably the number 1 Australian consumer of Carne di Cavaddo – it really is fantastic meat! Via Plebliscito is the number 1 place to get really good carne di cavaddo in Catania, and Achille’s is the oldest and the best place to go!
Everywhere you go in Italy, you will find that each little town has it’s own speciality in the food department. For Catania, it’s Carne di Cavaddo. It’s a meat that’s high in iron, and beautiful in taste.
Trattoria Achille – right in the middle of the interesting Via Plebiscito. Even better, there’s a bus stop right across the road for those of you who don’t drive.
Trattoria Achille is a family run business. It was started by the father, and is now run by his son – I’ve known the son so long now it’s a bit rude to ask if his name is actually Achille – and his sisters handle the cash. Friends come by, children are running around and finding somewhere to park your car can sometimes be an all night event!
The original Archille at the helm. Image credit: www.joe-ray.com
Traditionally, carne di cavaddo is something you eat at night. I don’t have an answer as to why, but that is the story. Today, you can get it almost any time you like. Achille is open for both lunch and dinner. Lunch time is a fairly standard time (up to 3pm if I remember right) but dinner…. Everyone works on Sicilian time – it is perfectly normal to rock up at midnight or 1am and be served.
One such night was the first experience I had with carne di cavaddo. January of 2007, winter in Catania we had gone out for the night and on the way home stopped at Trattoria Achille (little did I realise then that I would become probably their number one Aussie customer). Back then it was only open for dinner, and the barbecue was outside on the footpath, and beside the barbecue was a table you could stand at, and watch all the goings on while you ate. Now this has changed, and their barbecue is inside the door and that standing table is no more but there are plenty of tables to sit at outside. The smell was amazing coming from the barbecue. I really had to try some but what did I want? Dear husband suggested a ‘slice’ and see how I liked it. Ok, lets go with that. On the barbecue went our order, one thin but big slice each.
How it used to be – barbecue outside. This is the ultimate take away destination! Cavaddo sandwich anyone? Image Credit: maxliotro.blogspot.com.au
The first night we were eating near the plastic cups. It was a lot of fun! Image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/eugenios
From the first bite I was hooked! I then had another – my food world had just opened up in a HUGE way! This was going to become a firm favourite. The wine that comes with the food is equally as good – they get it from one of the local wine makers up at Etna, but the ‘Vino da Sicilia’ deserves it’s own post!
I’ve got one word for you…..Rissoles! In Italian ‘Polpette’. Wow, Wow and WOW! You haven’t had a proper rissole until you’ve had a horse rissole! They put some amazing herbs in there, and even after you are ‘pieno a tappa’ (full to the brim) you want to eat more. Polpette di cavaddo is a have to try food!
So if you don’t have time to to sit and watch the zooming around of vespa, friends calling out to each other and people trying to squeeze their car into that impossibly small place, you can get a takeaway! Horse meat sandwich. The same slice of glorious meat, but folded into a bun and wrapped half in foil so you don’t get dirty while eating. I don’t mind too much if I get covered in food, so long as I can clean up after however Italians like to stay clean at all times.
Over the years since, every time I’ve been in Catania I make it a priority to go to Achille’s. We go there on the hot summer nights when we can’t sleep, invite our friends there and go there for no other reason but we like it. Oh, and it’s a mandatory stop at the end of our Sunday trips. If you are our friend or family and are in Catania, you will be taken there!
Mum’s first horse meat experience. August 2014.
So what else do you eat with carne di cavaddo? In the winter, you can get ‘insalata di finocchio’ (fennel salad) which is the perfect match for ‘una fete e due polpette’ (one slice and two rissoles). In the summer it’s a green salad, and watermelon to finish off. If you are lucky enough to be with us, dear husband dresses salads like no other!
Una fete, due polpette e un bicchere di vino rosso!
And what if you’re not in to meat? Well, Achille has a fantastically large menu – I have it on good authority that the mussel soup and the pasta is brilliant!
Aside from Trattoria Achille, Via Plebiscito is worth a look. In my opinion, it’s one of the most interesting streets in Catania. At any time of the day or night there is something happening. Friends meeting, animated conversations in deep Sicilian, horns tooting and vespas flying through the street at incredible speed.
For a truly local experience with good food, good wine and interesting surroundings, head down Via Plebiscito and visit Achille! You won’t be disappointed!