Going to Catania, a historic port city on the east coast of Sicily, can be quite a nerve-wracking venture when you're a vegetarian and find out the city's specialty is horse meat. Don't let that fact deter you from going, though. The city is also renowned, among others, for a special pasta dish called pasta alla norma which is one hundred percent vegetarian.
Horse meat and a macaroni dish made of aubergines, tomatoes, and basil are in any terms, culinary included, a vast contrast. And contrast is pretty much the right word to sum up the city itself. From its infamous and volatile volcano, Mount Etna, to its sweeping beaches, to its Greek and Roman ruins, and its iconic elephant, Catania is a city of incongruities that somehow manages to fuse together to be a sensational place to visit.
Catania's culinary scene is as diverse and unusual as its history. While there will be a number of things on restaurant menus you'd probably prefer not to know about if you're vegetarian, there are also plenty of dishes that you'll have your tongue hanging out to try. Will they be hard to find? Not really as some of the best street food in Catania, and there's quite a lot, is vegetarian.
You can't wander around Catania and make the most of street food like arancini or crispelle if you have your hands full of bags. Leave your baggage in a Bounce luggage locker in Catania where it'll be kept safe under lock and key with a security tag and fully comprehensive insurance. Once you're bag-free, you'll be ready for anything, whether it's a slice of rocket-topped pizza al taglio or running for your life because Mount Etna's having a volcanic tantrum again.
Which Are the Best Vegetarian Restaurants In Catania
Street food in Catania is really second to none, but when you're staying here you won't always want to be eating on the go. Check out the vegetarian restaurants mentioned below and you'll know before you go where you can get great food, where you’ll find vegan options, and where you'll be able to sit at a table to eat.
What's It Like?
Plante Lab began as a project to create top-quality vegetarian food from a home kitchen that was so successful after two years, they opened their first proper restaurant in Catania's historic district.
Plante Lab's premises are simply decorated with the walls painted an apt olive green and bare wood furniture that's complemented by the open, stainless piping on the ceiling. It's a modern, clean, and eye-pleasing style and there's a "not-so-secret" roof terrace for dining al fresco with super views of Catania Cathedral and the city.
Plante Lab's food philosophy is to use only the best fresh ingredients in the vegetarian dishes they create and that's apparent in the final product. While they do produce vegetarian food that is haute cuisine, they focus on casual dining so the atmosphere is more relaxed than posh.
The potato foam with baked white onions and green beans or the roasted corn polenta with butternut squash and umami sauce.
Via Sant'Anna, 5
La Cucina dei Colori
What's It Like?
La Cucina dei Colori is a beautifully rustic restaurant in the center of the city near the Roman amphitheater with a real Mediterranean atmosphere. Mediterranean flavors and variety is the ethos behind their cooking and it's one they stick to religiously.
La Cucina dei Colori operates different types of lunch and dinner services. At lunchtime, it's more like fast food when you can pick your own combination buffet-style where you can choose up to three items to eat in or takeaway. For dinner, they have an a la carte menu, but if you want to eat there, go early as they don't have many tables.
The vegetarian food and vegan options at La Cucina dei Colori are all made using fresh produce purchased from local farmers and they have a nice selection of Sicilian wine too. If you have time on your hands you can take one of their short cooking classes in vegetarian cuisine.
The lasagna verdi. It's made with fresh, homemade pasta and filled with vegetables in a rich tomato sauce.
Via San Michele, 9
Good Natural Food
What's It Like?
If you're out shopping in Catania, Good Natural Food is the ideal place to drop into for lunch in between visiting the designer boutiques that line the Corso Italia. You'll spot this eatery easily enough as it has a pavement terrace sectioned off with potted plants and a big canopy. The name is written in letters large enough to see from the opposite side of the street.
Good Natural Food sums up what this restaurant does perfectly. While they're not strictly vegetarian, they concentrate on healthy salad bowls and sandwiches and have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. The bonus is you can select the ingredients you like from the buffet so get your bowl full of goodness just the way you want it. They also serve a range of healthy smoothies and awesome coffees.
Here you choose what you want in your sandwiches or salads so we recommend having anything and everything that tickles your fancy.
Corso Italia, 67
What's It Like?
Due Pistacchi is where to go when you want to eat somewhere a little bit more sophisticated than the nearest fast food joint with vegan options. Due Pistacchi's premises are very elegant, so don't dress down for the occasion or you'll look out of place among the stone walls and pristine blue and white decor.
Due Pistacchi is in essence a seafood restaurant, but one with some superior vegan and gluten-free options on the menu. What they serve at Due Pistacchi is art on a plate, so be prepared to be impressed by the presentation. You can watch the chefs work their magic while waiting for your dinner to arrive as the kitchen is completely open.
At Due Pistacchi they offer several different tasting menus as well as a variety of first and second courses plus lots of truly amazing and very scrumptious desserts. You might be in Sicily, but you won't get Italian pizza here.
The platter of porcini mushroom ravioli with pistachio cream and pistachio crumb. Delicious.
Via Salvatore Tomaselli 9
What's It Like?
GnamGnam Food is an eclectic but very nice fast food place on one of Catania's busier streets. Here you'll definitely be able to pick up a slice of pizza plus lots of other flavorsome food.
Internally, GnamGnam Food's premises has a basic décor that consists of picnic-style metal and wood tables and chairs, faux brick tiles, and a wooden parquet floor. It's a style that's not unattractive but doesn't invite you to linger for long, but then that's what fast food places are all about.
GnamGnam Food is the sort of place to go if you're on a strict budget as their prices are very low in comparison to other vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Here they have great food for breakfast that will set you up for the rest of the day. Think fruit smoothies, including a special lemon spremuta that will certainly start your day with a zing of vitamin C, plus burritos, tacos, sandwiches, and burgers.
The American-style pancakes with strawberries and bananas or the mixed fruit cocktail with natural yogurt and honey.
Via Umberto, 1
Gran Caffe Pam Pam
What's It Like?
Go to the Gran Caffe Pam Pam and while you might not get the best dinner ever, but you'll feel exceptionally welcome and be served with a smile. That's worth a lot whether you're in Catania or Timbuktu.
Gran Caffe Pam Pam isn't one of the city's vegan restaurants, but a vegetarian-friendly cafe that's open from the early hours of the morning until around midnight. It's great for an afternoon of doing nothing more than chilling on the terrace with a friend over a glass of wine or beer while nibbling on Italian tapas like artichoke hearts, olives, and grilled aubergine slices.
Make sure you state that you're vegan or vegetarian when ordering your aperitifs or you could find yourself facing a plate full of spicy salami, cured hams, or seafood. These guys are very enthusiastic when it comes to keeping their customers happy so in their haste could bring you the wrong thing.
If nothing else, try the spaghetti aglio e olio. It's a simple, rustic plate of pasta seasoned with nothing more than garlic and olive oil but is a real Italian taste sensation.
Via Etnea, 206
What's It Like?
Find the Ristorante Haiku in Catania and you'll have found an absolute gem. It's one of the only true vegan restaurants in the city.
Tucked away on a back street, this vegan restaurant has a secluded patio that really invites you to linger over your meal. Inside it may be a little cramped, but is no less inviting for the lack of space or oddly matched furnishings. It is what it is and after all, you'll only be sitting on the chair not eating it.
At Haiku they focus their cooking on integral and biological vegan dishes prepared and served the Japanese way, but with a definite European twist. It's a fusion that works.
Breaded and deep-fried tofu served on pea puree or the crispy veggie fritters served with salt and lime, just like a shot of tequila. The spring rolls and quinoa with raisins and flaked almonds are amazing and absolutely delicious too.
Via Quintino Sella, 30Indian Curry Restaurant
What's It Like?
When you want to spice up your stay in Catania and escape from plates of pasta for one night at least, give the Indian Curry Restaurant a try. The restaurant's location or décor won't leave you gasping for breath out of delighted astonishment, but the food probably will.
While this restaurant might not be in the most attractive part of the city and doesn't have a frontage you'd want to take a photo of for your social media, inside it's clean and well organized so don't pass up giving it a try.
The Indian Curry Restaurant in Catania has, as most Indian restaurants do, a variety of vegan and vegetarian-friendly dishes on their menu so you'll have plenty to choose from.
The mixed vegetable curry or the dahl with onion bhajis and garlic naan on the side. The chickpea biryani is good too.
Via del Toscano, 7
What's it like?
Bar Mazzini is a pink palace of delights where you can get the best brunch in Catania. Pink? Yes, the exterior walls are painted in a delicate shade of the color so you'll spot it long before you're within sniffing distance of the coffee brewing.
Bar Mazzini isn't a huge cafeteria and only has a few tables inside and a few more on the pavement, but the selection of goodies they bake is second to none. Don't skip trying the savory products in favor of the sweet. They're all as good as each other, so why not have both?
The chef's special, which is an onion pasty, a pistachio croissant, or a panini with tomato and mozzarella.
Via Auteri, 6
When you're a vegan or vegetarian, it's always good to know before you visit somewhere new what and where you can get food that suits your diet. While specialist vegan restaurants in Catania are few, there are plenty of places that offer vegan and vegetarian options that are both thoughtfully created and well presented.
Take comfort in the fact that once you're in Catania you won't need to survive on pizzas, bread from the local bakery dipped in olive oil, or a packet of vegan cookies purchased in the supermarket and eaten in your hotel room. In Catania, you'll be able to sit down, enjoy a great meal in pleasant surroundings, and even go al fresco if you want to.