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Top 15 Things to Eat in Messina

When you’re on vacation, part of the fun is trying new things to eat. With a Carnival® cruise around Europe, you can expand your palate with stops at charming seaside ports like Messina, located on the island of Sicily, just off the coast of southern Italy. While you’re exploring, it helps to know the top things to eat in Messina.

the messina harbor with the gold hail mary statue

1. Frutta Martorana

Almost too pretty to eat, frutta martorana are sweets made from marzipan fashioned to look like tiny fruits and vegetables. To create these colorful gems, Sicilian pastry chefs use special molds, vegetable dyes and edible lacquer for a beautiful shine.

2. Salami

Salami has been produced in Sicily since the ninth century, and the salami that comes from the Sant’Angelo community in Messina is particularly tasty. Made from prime pork cuts, this mild sausage features a large grain, a bright red color and a fragrant aroma. As an appetizer, it marries well with a full-bodied red wine.


3. Mezza con Panna al Caffè

Picture a snow cone in a glass and you have granita, a popular frozen Sicilian dessert. Although this treat comes in flavors like lemon, strawberry, chocolate or pistachio, the most popular granita in Messina is mezza con panna al caffè, which is coffee-flavored and topped with cream. Served with brioche, this makes the perfect breakfast.

4. Arancini

Derived from a word which means “little orange,” arancini is a popular street food throughout all parts of Italy. To create arancini, balls of risotto-style rice are stuffed with various fillings like ragu or mozzarella cheese. Then, they are breaded and deep-fried for the perfect snack on-the-go.

someone holding an arancini, a typical sicilian street food

5. Sciusceddu

For the ultimate comfort food, sit down to sciusceddu, a dish often prepared for the Easter holiday in Messina. To make it, meatballs are cooked in broth, topped with eggs and local cheeses and baked in the oven. This is a recipe you’ll want to try to recreate at home, but make sure to serve it with slices of fresh bread for sopping up the delicious broth.

6. Mozzarella in Carrozza

If you’re looking for some unique things to buy in Messina, consider ordering mozzarella in carrozza, which translates to “mozzarella in a carriage.” Typically, this deep-fried sandwich is stuffed with mozzarella cheese, but in Messina, they fill it with tuma, a mild Sicilian cheese. Just like the American grilled cheese sandwich, the end product is ooey-gooey good.

mozzarella in carrozza, a typical sicilian sandwich

7. Vermicelli alla Siciliana

For traditional flavors similar to pasta alla Norma, try Vermicelli alla Siciliana. This recipe consists of vermicelli pasta tossed in a rich sauce made from tomatoes, eggplant, roasted bell peppers, anchovies, capers, olives and basil. Topped with grated pecorino cheese, this dish offers a true taste of Sicily and Messina in particular.

8. Focaccia Messinese

If you like pizza, you’ll love focaccia Messinese. This Italian flatbread features dough made from flour, yeast, water, olive oil, salt and sugar, but the toppings are what make it special. Messina chefs add tuna or provolone cheese, anchovies, endive and tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

focaccia messinese, a cheese and tomato flatbread

9. Caponata

Eggplant is a staple for Sicilian cooks, and in Messina, locals love to make caponata. This hearty side dish features chopped and fried eggplant, peeled tomatoes, celery, olives, capers, raisins and pine nuts dressed with sweet balsamic vinegar. Caponata is served as an appetizer with toasted bread or as a side dish with grilled meats or seafood.

10. Parmigiana di Melanzane

If you love warm and cheesy casseroles, try Parmigiana di Melanzane, a dish that residents of Naples and Sicily both claim as their own. Similar to lasagna, it features layers of sliced eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese all baked until golden brown. In all parts of southern Italy, Parmigiana di Melanzane is served as a side dish.

eggplant lasagna, a typical sicilian dish, sitting on display at a sicilian bakery

11. Pasta alla Norma

Imagine macaroni and slices of fried eggplant tossed in a tomato and basil sauce with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese on top, and you have pasta alla Norma. Legend has it that the name Pasta alla Norma was born when a famous writer who tasted this Sicilian dish, compared it in level of perfection to the Italian opera, Norma, written by Vincenzo Bellini. Apparently, the name stuck.

12. Pasta con le Sarde

Few recipes are more Sicilian than pasta con le sarde. Made with bucatini, this dish features fennel and sardines which are plentiful in Sicily along with a number of other flavorful ingredients. Think tomatoes, onions, sultana raisins, pine nuts, olive oil, salt and pepper.

sardine pasta with pine nuts and oregano

13. Cassata

For another dessert that represents Sicily well, try cassata. This cake is made with shortbread-style pastry and layered with ricotta cream and citrus fruit for a scrumptious filling. Depending on the pastry chef, the cake top can be drizzled with chocolate and crowned with a maraschino cherry or frosted with white icing and decorated with marzipan.

14. Cannoli

One of the culinary treats Sicily is famous for comes in the form of a dessert: cannoli. To make it, tube-shaped pastry is deep-fried until crispy and stuffed with a sweet and creamy ricotta filling. Ingredients often added to the filling include pistachios, chunks of chocolate and candied orange peel.

a tray of cannoli in a sicilian bakery

15. Pignolata Messinese

Often prepared at Christmas time in Messina, Pignolata features marble-sized balls of pastry dough, which are baked or fried until golden brown. In Messina, cooks arrange the dough balls into a pinecone shape and drizzle it with lemon glaze on one side and dark chocolate on the other.

When you’re looking for things to do in Messina, make sure to taste the local cuisine. From a deep-fried cheese sandwich to an iced coffee with cream, your taste buds won’t be disappointed. Want a vacation packed with fun activities and delicious things to eat? Try a Carnival cruise.