16 Sep Please The Palate Pick of the Week: The Freshest Seafood at Ristorante La Tonnara in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily
Spending a week traveling around Sicily, one of my companions noted that we had not had any meat. Instead, we had been eating seafood and fish at every meal. And it has been the freshest, most delicious fish and seafood I think I have ever had. This is especially the case at Ristorante La Tonnara, a restaurant in the town of Castellammare del Golfo, aka the “Sea Fortress on the Gulf” in the province of Trapani in Sicily. After eating dinner at this restaurant two nights in a row, it is most definitely the Please the Palate pick of the week.
Tonnara translates to trap, describing the vast nets that have been used to haul in tuna. The Tonnare were the large fisheries found on Sicily. These former tuna fishers have been renovated into hotels and restaurants today. They are the inspiration for the name of Ristorante La Tonnara which is owned by Gloria Randazzo and her father Gaspare Randazzo. Gaspare and his father and brother are all fishmongers who have sold the local fresh fish. Eight years ago, in 2016, he opened the restaurant and today Gloria runs it. Gloria works the indoor and outdoor areas of the restaurant like a pro. She is a certified sommelier and knows about the wines, as well as all the fish and seafood, and knows how to pair them.
Like most fish restaurants along the water in many towns, the fresh fish is on display. And it is at Ristorante La Tonnara. And the menu offers so many choices. It was a good thing we ate there two nights in a row and it allowed us to try so many dishes.
Tuna and White Fish Carpaccio had the purest, most delicate taste.
Oysters from Breton were large but so light and tasted like the sea.
Shrimp and Scampi were both served raw. The flavors of both were creamy and sweet and melted in the mouth. The giant red shrimp, or “gambero rosso” are considered “red gold” from the sea and are some of the best shrimp I have ever had.
Red Tuna is one of the delicacies of Sicily. The Bluefin tuna swim past the coasts of Sicily and Sardinia in May and June. For those fish that head left and pass by Sicily, they will be met by a series of nets that are lowered into the water, and the tuna are captured in successive nets which are gradually restricted in size and raised toward the surface. Due to this technique of capturing and killing, the flavor is delicate and tasty.
We enjoyed the red tuna lightly seared.
We also enjoyed it in a dish of sweet and sour tuna.
And as tuna balls in a marinara sauce.
In Sicily, eggplant is extremely popular and one of the most famous dishes in Parmigiana. But in Sicily, it is not just eggplant with mozzarella and sauce. I had one with egg and at La Tonnera, it had swordfish in it, and was good.
We enjoyed many more dishes, including fresh sardines made into Sardines in beccafico (fresh sardines that are stuffed with toasted bread crumbs, currants, pignoli, cheese, and parsley, rolled up and baked).
Fresh squid was made into Calamari.
Mussels in red sauce
We enjoyed a whole fish that was tender and delicious.
And there was fish with pasta, including a classic linguine con vongole.
As well as Caserecce Tonnare made with tuna, zucchini, bottarga, and lemon and Busiata Pasta with shrimp pistachio, and tomato.
I cannot get over fresh and delicious the fish and seafood is in Sicily!