The frame is that of the Gulf of Catania: an arc that goes from Capo Mulini to Capo Santa Croce, in the municipality of Augusta. A portion of sea protected in part by the Natural Marine Reserve of the Ciclopi Islands and ploughed every day by the small boats of the fishermen of the gulf.
Here, according to the season, are fished garfish, bass, tuna, mullet, mackerel, and masculini. The fishermen also call them anciuvazzu or anciuvurineddu: many names for the small, darting anchovies, the same ones caught by the Ligurians and the Cilento menaids. They are the same ones that, as master ‘Ntoni said in I Malavoglia, “feel the grecale twenty-four hours before they arrive, (…) it has always been like this, the anchovy is a fish that has more judgment than the tuna fish”.
In April, we begin to lower the “traits” (so they call in Catania the menaid nets, which have meshes of one centimeter side and are about 300 meters long): the right time is the late night, almost at dawn.
The technique is the same practiced throughout the Mediterranean since the time of Homer. This mechanism of capture (the imprisonment of the head of the anchovy in the meshes of the net, hence the name magghia) causes a natural bleeding that makes the fish tastier and therefore more valuable.
In Italy the flotillas practicing traditional fishing with the menaide are few: they are located in Pisciotta, in some small towns of the Cilento coast (in Campania) and in the Gulf of Catania. Here the families who live of this ancient craft are about thirty: a small group – which is divided between the harbors of San Giovanni li Cuti, Ognina, Aci Trezza – and some civitotu (this is the name of the inhabitants of the district of Catania Civita) at the port of Catania.
Masculini are sold fresh on the market in Piazza Pardo (‘a Piscaria) in Catania, or they are salted by the fishermen’s wives. The salting technique is the same throughout the Mediterranean, but here there is an absolutely unique preparation, invented by the fishermen of Catania to feed themselves during the many hours spent at sea. It is a preservation made with small pieces of anchovies and with the heads which are caught in the mesh of the menaide. Impossible to sell, these “scraps” were eaten on the boat. Back on shore, the women of the house put what remained in olive oil, in glass jars or small terracotta jars (the cugnitti) and if necessary they took a part to cook sauces.
The 8 fishermen and processors are united in the:
Gulf Cooperative, Catania, Via Santa Sofia 55, Tel. +39 345 3881807, fax +39 095 7318871, email@example.com
The fishermen are all from Catania: Angelo Samà, Gaetano Urzì, Elisabetta Urzì, Sebastiano Santuccio, Vincenzo Testa, Biagio Testa and Giuseppa Urzì.
They are also responsible for salting the anchovies.