Achille catania

I Could Eat a Horse – Horse Meat in Sicily

[first published in 2012]

Via Plebiscito is the home of the horse. It’s also a fine place to go if you want to get a taste of the, at times, shockingly real Sicily. If you are a ferocious carnivore and prefer generous amounts of meat on your plate, then here you will get your satisfaction.

Catania is at least two cities, the first being the clean, elegant and impeccable, via Etnea and its surrounds. The second is an anomaly of sorts – a dangerous, run-down, exciting, noisy but very authentic city. A horse of another colour, if you will.
Via Plebiscito runs from the Pescheria or fish market, behind Piazza Duomo around in a semi circle to near Piazza Stesicoro. It covers a large area of the west of the city where scooters zoom by at high speed and the atmosphere is one of uncertainty. The food prices decrease the further you stray from the centre and here an arancino or a pizza slice can be found for one euro (bargain!).


Horse Meat Catania - John P Brady

Horse meat (carne di cavallo) and Horse burgers (polpette) on the left, Involtini on the right, Salsicce and Cipollate at the back

The famous crossroads to eat such wonders as horse burgers (known as polpette) or horse steaks, is near to Piazza Stesicoro. It’s best as a tourist or a red head, to not stray any further down via Plebiscito, lest you take your life in your hands.

One of my students advertised his going to one horse meat establishment – ‘I’m going this evening with friends to eat horse meat. I will eat a plate “this big”.’ He made an expansive gesture with his hands.
‘You’re a dark horse,’ I told him.
‘It’s probably the most delicious meat I’ve ever tasted! You have to try it. Come with me sometime,’ he suggested.
‘No way, you’re flogging a dead horse.’ 

Horse Burger - John P Brady

‘Do you buy horse meat at the market?’ I asked Federica, a local.
‘No, never! At the panineria always. To get the real feel of a panino con carne di cavallo, it must be eaten on the street,’ she told me.
‘It is not eaten in the north,’ one local said.
‘It is not even eaten in Palermo,’ said another, ‘it’s unique to Catania.’  To deduce its popularity is easy – it is loved, raved about even. There you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth.

As my father bred show-jumpers, I can’t stand the smell or even the sight of the stuff.
Horse Menu - John P Brady Menu- Pasta and veg on the left, meat on the right

I went to what seemed like a popular panino house near the port. The fat old woman advertised her sausages as the best I might find. She made the buona hand gesture, which is a finger pointed at the cheek and twisted. I asked for a chicken or a pork panino. Nothing doing.
‘Only cavallo!’ she declared. Many burly, ravenous men entered in a mini stampede, eager for a horse fix.
‘Hold your horses!’ I wanted to say to them.

Down at ‘Horse Corner’ as I call it, you can also eat involtini, a delicious mix of chicken, cheese and ham or aubergine, cheese and ham, which is wrapped together and thrown on the grill. The pork sausages (salsicce) are also magnificent, some are mixed with tomato, fennel, cheese or onion. Cipollate is spring onions wrapped in pancetta and although extremely fatty are also delicious. Afterwards you’ll be as strong as a horse.
At Horse Corner, my comrades asked if I might not reconsider and try the celebrated meat.
‘Well, you can bring a horse to water…’

Sicilian Swear Words - John P Brady

(Apologies for the merciless use of idioms.)

Nearby: Partial list of swear words in Sicilian language/dialect.

4 Responses to I Could Eat a Horse – Horse Meat in Sicily

  1. November 21 2012
    Katja You dark horse, John. Sheesh – you think you know a person and then they come out with posts like this! My great aunt bred racehorses, I had ponies and (later, when I got a little bit taller) horses growing up, and I used to work for the British Horseracing Authority – but I’ll still scarf down a good few polpette or fette di cavallo with gusto. They just taste good. Still – horses for courses, and all that. ;)
    • November 23 2012
      John P Brady Now don’t be getting on your high horse, miss! You never truly know a person, I think. The surprises are what make life interesting!
  2.  February 12 2013
    Luigi hey john, i’m from Catania and these pics are just amazing! they made me think (and crave) about home! with all that is happening in UK about the horse meat though, i am having a right laugh :)cheers Luigi
    • February 13 2013
      John P Brady Ciao Luigi, wow sei catanese?! Mi ha fatto molto piacere di vedere il tuo commento.
      You don’t need to go to Catania for horse meat, it seems it can be found quite easily abroad also! I don’t eat horse but I’ll go and have a salsicce condita in your honour! Ciao mbare




John P Brady writes short and long fiction, articles and formally a blog about life in Italy, where he lived for 6 years.  His first book, a collection, entitled Back to the Gaff has been published by Roadside Fiction. 

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Back to the Gaff

#backtothegaffScandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland

Back to the Gaff is a collection by author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life.

Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.


Ebook and Paperback available


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