Typical Calabrian fish dishes

Tour of seaside villages and Calabrian fresh fish specialities

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Food and wine

With its 800 km of coastline, Calabria can also be enjoyed through its typical Calabrian fish dishes, the pride of fishermen and seafront restaurants.

Among the typical Calabrian foods, the fresh fish of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas, declined in different ways depending on the origin, offers a glimpse of the territories and a mouth-watering opportunity to discover them.

Let's discover together what Calabria's fish specialities are and where to taste them, including traditional festivals, events and typical Calabrian recipes from coast to coast.

Specialities of Tyrrhenian Calabria

Our tour of typical Calabrian fish dishes starts from the ancient tuna fisheries on the Tyrrhenian coast between the provinces of Vibo Valentia and Reggio Calabria.

The tuna fisheries of Pizzo, Vibo and Palmi

If you want to discover the secrets and typical Calabrian tuna recipes, you must visit the Costa degli Dei to discover the traditional tuna fisheries.

The first place to visit is the Tuna Fishery of Pizzo, on the coast of Pizzo (VV).

The loggia of the Tonnara Antica (or Tonnara Grande) is part of the so-called '"running tuna nets", those that trapped fish during their race towards reproduction. Belonging to the De Silva and Mendoza families, princes of Mileto, the original structure dates back to 1475 and at the height of its activity included numerous service and work areas: from weighing the catch to cutting and salting, to areas for negotiations and markets. 

A little further on we encounter the seaside hamlet of Vibo Valentia (aka Porto Santa Venere), where tuna fishing has been one of the main economic activities since ancient times, when the Greeks and Romans first installed fishing and fish-farming posts (tunnoskopoi, cetaria, vivaria, etc.). Visiting the Tuna Fishery complex in Bivona, along the beach of the same name, is like immersing oneself in the historical memory of Vibo Valentia and discovering at first hand the troubled relationship between man and sea.

The construction of the new Tuna Fishery in Bivona took place in two phases: the loggia that guarded boats and nets, ground floor, first floor and a chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, where sacred rites were combined with pagan rites, propitiatory of fishing, date back to 1881. The tuna fishery includes the building and the outside area, where activities related to the preparation of the trap took place.

Today, the Port of Vibo is a strategic embarkation point to quickly reach the Aeolian Islands and treat yourself to a mini-day cruise.

Here there are bars and restaurants offering typical Calabrian dishes based on tuna, from spaghetti with botargo to tagliata with Red Onion of Tropea PGI, fished and processed by the two main Calabrian tuna producers, the Callipo and Sardanelli families, whose factories can be visited by appointment (the former also as a corporate museum).

Crostoni al tonno
Giovanni Muraca

Reaching the province of Reggio and the Costa Viola, we stop at the historic Tuna Fishery of Palmi.

The town of Palmi, among the Calabrian marinas on the Tyrrhenian coast, is famous for its traditional tuna fishing and related establishments.

Among the most evocative places on the coast, the Spiaggia della Tonnara is the best spot to enjoy a sunset overlooking the Aeolian Islands. It owes its name to the twentieth-century tuna fishery and is home to one of Palmi's symbols: the Olive Tree Rock, so called because of the centuries-old olive tree trunk that stands on top. 

Scoglio dell'Ulivo - Palmi
Regione Calabria

The stockfish of Cittanova and Mammola

Behind Palmi lies the old town of Cittanova, one of the so-called "stockfish towns" in Calabria together with Mammola, also in the province of Reggio Calabria, where stockfish is branded De.Co. (Municipal Denomination of Origin) and PAT (Traditional Agrifood Product).

Stockfish is among the typical foods of seafaring Calabria: a dried cod preserve that forms the basis of many typical Calabrian recipes, such as stockfish stew with potatoes and olives and spaghetti with stockfish. 

Stocco e patate
Regione Calabria

The processing of stockfish is exclusively manual and is divided into five stages over five days. It seems that the spring water of the Aspromonte National Park, behind these towns, plays a fundamental role in the success of the product.

The typical cuisine of Calabria includes the traditional consumption of stockfish on Good Friday and Christmas Eve, when families get together and emigrants, returning from their holidays, take it away with them.

In addition to these "sacred" moments, typical Calabrian dishes based on stockfish can be enjoyed during the "National Stockfish Festival" in Cittanova and the "Stockfish Festival" in Mammola (both in August).

The swordfish of Bagnara and Scilla

From tuna to swordfish, the step is short and takes us straight to the two cities that symbolise this fish variety: Bagnara Calabra and Scilla, both in the province of Reggio Calabria.

Here, it is possible to taste the finest typical Calabrian swordfish recipes.

Swordfish fishing in Bagnara is an identity symbol, so much so that it appears on the municipal banner and in the typical imagery of the "bagnaròta", the woman dedicated to trading the catch along the coastline, who has always inspired writers, poets and film-makers.

Regione Calabria

The swordfish fishery in Calabria is a ritual that involves the use of precise objects and superstitions: despite new technologies, for example, the traditional blue (or red) wooden ball on top of the prow of the palamitàra (or felucca) cannot be missed, with the stars of Ursa Major painted on it separated by a white band, a reference to ancient Phoenician culture.

The fishing village of Scilla is no less impressive!

In the picturesque district of Chianalea, you can admire the old fishermen's dwellings with their boats moored below and the original pile dwellings, now converted into luxurious fish restaurants where you can taste the specialities of "purple" Calabria.

Vincenzo Stranieri

Typical Calabrian swordfish dishes include the tasty swordfish parmigiana, the swordfish sandwich (typical local street food), classic stuffed rolls and paccheri with aubergines and cherry tomatoes.

Typical foods of Ionian Calabria

The gastronomic journey of Calabrian seafood dishes continues along the Ionian coast, travelling up the rivieras to discover Calabrian fish products and recipes typical of the Ionian Sea.

The Ionian Pink Shrimp

Travelling up the fragrant coastline from the province of Reggio Calabria to that of Catanzaro, passing through the Riviera dei Gelsomini and the Riviera degli Aranci, we encounter the king of Calabrian cuisine: the prized Mediterranean Pink Shrimp.

How to recognise it from other shrimp? Abundant in the Ionian Sea, particularly in the Bay of Soverato (Baia dell'Ippocampo Regional Marine Park, due to the equally numerous presence of "seahorses"), the Pink Shrimp is available all year round and is distinguished by its unmistakable colouring, which tends towards purple on the carapace, and by being smaller than average.

Restaurants in and around Soverato exalt its particularly delicate flavour in typical Calabrian dishes ranging from starters (where it is served raw) to first courses and irresistible grilled and fried seafood (including the typical street food "cuòppo").

The Sardella Crotonese

Continuing along the Ionian coast of Calabria, heading north, we make a stop in Crotone and its province to taste one of the "musts" among typical Calabrian fish dishes.

This is the traditional Sardella Crotonese, a PAT (Traditional Food Product) branded product that is among the tastiest in the region.

Also known as "Rosamarina", "Nduja di Pesce" and "Caviale Calabrese", Sardella Crotonese is fished, processed and preserved in Crotone and along the entire Costa dei Saraceni all year round. Sardella, the queen of the table, is a speciality of Calabria made from small blue fish (bianchetto, "nunnàta"), spicy Topepo peppers dried in the sun or in a wood oven, and wild fennel flowers.

Regione Calabria

Where and when best to taste Sardella Crotonese? In Crucoli (KR), known as the "Sardella Town", where the historic Crucoli Sardella Festival is held every year in August, Cirò Marina (KR) and Cariati (CS).

The anchovies of Corigliano-Rossano

We conclude our tour of discovery of typical Calabrian seafood along the picturesque Costa degli Achei.

We pause in the vast municipal area of Corigliano-Rossano, the heart of the Sibaritide, to taste another tasty Calabrian speciality from the oldest seafood tradition.

We are talking about the so-called "alici arriganàte", a real treat for the palate! 

Alici arriganate
Ilde Verrino


Last update: Jul 2, 2024 2:27 PM