Cook the World: 5 Places to get your International Groceries in Catania
Yes, food is great in Italy/Sicily/Catania but for some of us internationals, while we enjoy pizza and arancini as much as the person next door, we do occasionally like to cook something else: A good mole chicken, a lamb tagine or maybe a green coconut curry. Not exactly items you find in our lovely Catania.
Having spent the last 24 years of my life overseas in one way or another, eating a cacophony of international dishes is the norm at home. As a chef, I never get tired of cooking and trying new recipes. Sadly, one can’t just walk into Deco or Penny’s to get them.
We live downtown right in the heart of the “international” section of the city and within 200 meters of the “Fera ò luni”, Catania’s gigantic outdoor market in Piazza Carlo Alberto.
Here’s my top 5 spots for International groceries in Catania:
The grandaddy of world food groceries! Cristaldi is a cavern of Ali Baba with its vast selection spanning the Americas, Asia and Africa to name a few. They also have a beautifully curated organic section with grains, flours, pastas etc.
They tend to be a bit pricier than the other spots on this list but quality does come at a price. Their selection of American products is unrivaled with items like A1 steak sauce, Massa etc.. They also boost a great Japanese section. They get extra props for also having things like lemongrass, plantains and wanton wrappers.
I don’t shop there as much as I used to but there’s at least monthly trip built in my schedule. If you like clean organized shopping, this should be your main stop!
If you’re not in Catania, you can also order delivery from them.
2- Macelleria Islamica Eltaqwa
(aka The Moroccan Butcher)
One of my biggest issues since i moved here in February was meat. Having my own restaurant in Beijing, I was spoiled with 120day grass-fed Angus beef as my average meat. The supermarket stuff just doesn’t compare. I tried going to a few of the local butchers but I had a hard time getting the cuts I wanted from them, much less good prices. When i started shopping here, it changed my meat optics: Halal meat, friendly service, expert butcher who will try to accommodate your weird needs like prime-rib, skirt steak etc all at a reasonable price. They also stock lamb, goat, chicken and turkey, not to mention halal cold cuts.
They carry a wide range of Moroccan and middle eastern products including cooking utensils.
It’s easily the shop that gets most of my cash nowadays. Try the Moroccan olives, preserved lemons and get your hands on buttermilk.
3- La Vita Della Seta
( aka The Chinese shop)
After 16 years in China, it’s safe to say we’re fans of the cuisine. I cook Chinese food on average 3 times a week and i need a specific range of ingredients and vegetables. They’re all here!
The shelves are stocked with most types of sauces you’d need from Soy to Hoisin. The freezers have a great variety of ready to boil/steam dumplings, seaweed and what not.
Big brownie points for fresh Tofu that gets delivered weekly as well as things like bok choi. The prices are extremely adequate and it does feel like you’re back in China.
4- Khan Zahid
(aka The Coriander/Cilantro Shop)
To be honest, there are about 5 such shops within the square and they pretty much sell the same products as far as spices and dry goods go. Where this one stands out is that they carry parsley, an extremely rare commodity in this country. Both Asian and American cuisines call for copious amounts of fresh coriander/cilantro; this is where you get it.
The shop boast the biggest selection of spices i’ve seen in town and they carry vegetables like plantains, okra, cassava and the spiciest peppers in town.
Ok, it’s a bit of a cop out but during lockdown, when all the other shops were closed and i was needing certain things, these guys delivered. The prices are very fair, the selection quite wide and you don’t have to get out of your house.
They stock knives, mortars, singha beer and more!If you’re not in a rush, go ahead and stock up.
There are other shops around the city but for convenience, I’m only listing the ones here. If you know of some really good others, please send them my way and i will add them.
Tropical Center Food
Here is one that was mentioned on an expat group; I have added it because it looks great and they have a facebook page that’s actually updated. The range of products looks good and the prices seem correct. That said, I have not been there so mileage might vary.
Good shopping and let me know if any other shops should make the list. I’m always looking for new ingredients.