As you walk around the Centro Storico of Catania, you may notice that many trattorie and restaurants have stone name plaques on their outside walls. The style is similar in each of them, with red and white colour schemes, but the most striking thing about them is their size, which is impressively big. I’ve become a bit obsessed with them recently, and have been collecting photos as I wander about. Salvina caught me at it the other day, and was most confused. “Kate! What on earth are you doing …?” Oh, you know. Just playing weirdo tourist. Well, that’s not what I said, but I might as well have done.
Anyway, the night before last, as a group of us wandered around town in search of culture on an alleged Notte Bianca (there was none: the only things open were bars and the music stage in Teatro Massimo) we walked past Trattoria del Cavaliere, which has one of the most impressive examples of the genre, taking up most of the end wall of the restaurant. As I was with Lucia, who is a veritable font of information on the history of Catania, it seemed the perfect time to satisfy my curiosity.
I wave my arm towards the sign. “What’s the story of this?” Lucia glances over. “Oh, bomb damage in the war.” I realise that she thinks I’m talking about the building. “Oh! No, the sign.” She looks back at me, confused. “What sign?” I gesture again, although we’ve now gone well past the big one on the end wall and can only see the smaller ones (which are still, to be fair, half a metre across) either side of the main entrance door to the trattoria. “The stone ones. With the names of the places on?” She follows my pointing finger and her brow clears. Then she and Clem burst into laughter. I look at them in surprise. This wasn’t the reaction I was expecting.
So much for cultural traditions. We giggle all the way to the next bar.