When you think of Italian food, pasta and pizza might first come to mind – but we think the seafood of southern Italy should get some praise!
The seafood of the Italian south is the star on menus all along the coast, from Positano to Capri to Capania. Team Giadzy is located on the California coast, so we know a thing or two about good seafood – but southern Italy is on another level entirely. While Giada was born in Rome (in central Italy), a lot of her family hails from more southern regions of Italy, like Naples and Sicily. Because of this, she grew up getting the best of both worlds in Italy: the meatier, heartier dishes of the north, and the lighter, more seafood and vegetable-forward dishes of the south. To this day, she has fondness for the way southern Italians eat. We don’t blame her – the respect in which chefs treat the local seafood in Italy is admirable (and delicious!). There are also a variety of fish and types of seafood that aren’t as readily available in the ‘States – but that you need to eat when you’re in Italy!
While there are some varietals of seafood that are more abundant in southern Italy, or simply don’t exist here, there are some familiar contenders too – just under the guise of different names. For example, branzino is simply a type of sea bass, and cozze refers to Mediterannean mussels. Read on for our guide to some of the seafood – or frutti di mare (fruit of the ocean!) – you’ll find on the menus if you visit southern Italy!
Alice or Acciuga
English Translation: Anchovies!
You’ll find these teeny fish prepared in all sorts of ways in Italy. These fish get a bit of a bad rap in the ‘States – if you think you don’t like anchovies, just wait until you try the way they do them in Italy. Whether they’re preserved and marinated, deep fried or grilled, they have such a great salty richness that adds depth to any dish… which is why Giada uses anchovy paste in so many recipes!
English Translation: European Seabass!
Branzino is often prepared whole, either grilled or charred in a pizza oven. If you’re making it at home, buying filets and pan-searing the skin until crispy is a great way to go – like in Giada’s Pan-Seared Branzino with Tomatoes and Capers.
Giada’s Fritto Misto
English Translation: Squid!
This seafood, which is now almost just as popular in the ‘States, is often prepared by being sliced into little rings and fried, like in Fritto Misto. However, it’s equally delicious when grilled, as it is in Giada’s Southern Italy-inspired Calamari and Shrimp Salad. In Italy, you’ll find it prepared in a variety of ways, even stuffed!
English Translation: Grouper!
This mild, delicious fish has a texture that’s almost reminiscent of crab or lobster. You’ll tend to find it prepared whole in Italy, like Branzino would be. Similarly, if you can’t find grouper in your area, bass or halibut make for a good substitute.
English Translation: Mussels!
Mussels are most famously tossed with pasta in Italy, or steamed in flavorful broths like in Capri’s L’impepata Di Cozze (peppered mussels). Try steaming them up in Giada’s Mussels With Fennel And Italian Beer – just don’t forget some crusty bread to sop up all that delicious sauce. You can use clams in place of mussels in most recipes, just make sure you’re using clams that are slightly larger or else they may overcook!
Paccheri With Shrimp From Buca di Bacco in Positano
English Translation: Shrimp!
We don’t need to introduce you to this ocean-dweller. You’ll find shrimp prepared in tons of ways in Italy – tossed in light tomato sauces with pasta, fried, grilled, and often served whole and unpeeled.
English Translation: Swordfish!
Giada herself has said, “I remember sailing around to all the Sicilian islands as a kid, and eating swordfish a hundred different ways. We used to joke that we would at some point have swordfish for dessert, maybe as ice cream!” While we might not be on board with swordfish ice cream, we’ll certainly take it as it’s most commonly prepared in the south of Italy: grilled meaty steaks, often dressed with herbs and salads – like in Giada’s Grilled Swordfish With Candied Lemon.
Grilled Octopus with Burrata and Zucchini from Buca Di Bacco in Positano
English Translation: Octopus!
Although we do see octopus cropping up on more and more menus these days, it’s still considered iffy to many people here in the US. That said, octopus is very common in southern Italy. You’ll most commonly find it grilled to a char, or mixed with other seafood in risottos and pastas. If you’re feeling curious, give Giada’s Octopus Panzanella a try! If you can’t get your hands on octopus where you are, squid works as a substitute.
English Translation: Sole!
One of Giada’s favorite fish, sole is incredibly delicate and mild. It’s generally pan-fried and serves with lemons and capers – like in Giada’s version! If sole is unavailable where you are, any tender white fish can take its place, like tilapia or or cod.
English Translation: Bluefin tuna!
There is no place that does canned tuna as well as Italy does. For a great food souvenir, take home some oil-packed bluefin tuna!
Fresh Clams from Lo Scoglio in Capri
English Translation: Clams!
Like mussels, clams are most commonly prepared in Italy tossed with pasta, risotto, or steamed in aromatics.
Looking for more authentic Southern Italian seafood recipes? Catch Giada In Italy this season in Capri!
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