Marettimo’s “Fish-Bait Wreath”

October 16, 2015 / Food & Wine
Marettimo, Sicilia

As you approach the Marettimo trattoria with leaping blue dolphins painted on the side, you know you’ve found the right place for seafood: a young man with black goatee and bright green eyes sits near the entrance, stringing up bait for a fishing trip. That’s Alberto, like his papa’ Giuseppe (at the burners inside), a fisherman since he could toddle.


Alberto, flanked by his cousin Ignazio, takes hours to intricately weave (literally) the bait for the n’cuonsa: using two hundred fishhooks already painstakingly knotted to fishing lines, the two pierce each bait tidbit then hang all the pieces on a huge wooden wheel. Early the following morning, they’ll nose their boat offshore, dropping this “fish-bait wreath” into the sea with hopes that the hundreds of dangling fish pieces will do their job. Sometimes, mamma Paolina supervises their work and then heads back to the burners to flank her husband, Giuseppe.


Inside the trattoria, that morning’s fresh fish catch – n’cuonsa haul – lies on ice, ready for the diners to point out their choices to the cheerful young wait staff. Elderly Giuseppe is at the grill in the kitchen for lunches and dinners – and then home for a brief nap before heading out to fish with Alberto, just as first light shimmers across the island of Marettimo’s aquamarine sea.


After welcoming Alina (Alberto’s wife) seats you and passes you the menu, you KNOW you’re in for seafood paradiso, should you have any lingering doubts: the menu is handwritten. It has to be: who knows what Alberto and Giuseppe will unload from their fishing boat in the morning?


On our first night at Ristorante Il Veliero (and we ate there every night of our Marettimo stay), we started at the antipasto table loaded with dishes of Sicilian goodness. Here, you can help yourself to tastes of the Sicilian pepper dish, la peperonata, eggplant parmesan, panelle (those tasty chickpea “little panels”), olive salad with diced fresh vegetables, grilled eggplant, tuna carpaccio – and more. Stuffed mussels caught Pino’s eye, while I tried small tastes of most – but skipped the un-tempting marinated tuna heart.

Pino’s first course was on the “mussels theme”: steamed ones, while I chose a tasty pasta creation of swordfish, figs and ginger. We shared grilled mixed seafood to follow.

Desserts were eye-catching but who had room?

Two out of three nights on the magical island of Marettimo (western Sicily coast), we ate at Il Veliero – and only because one night we arrived too late to nab a table.

Read here and here about why Marettimo captivates.


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

19 Responses to “Marettimo’s “Fish-Bait Wreath””

  1. Marettimo is my favorite Italian island, and i kind of hope it remains unspoiled. Food looks great in this restaurant! Can’t remember where i ate when i was there either time but for me the scenery and walks are more of a priority along with the ‘local color’

  2. Mary Cappiello

    Annie—-So glad you are back to write for all your fans! Another special place to visit!

  3. Sandra Spector

    I can now and his work in the first sentence even if the topic is not Umbria or her beloved Asissi. Brava Annie

  4. Sandra Spector

    Sorry- iPhone ‘corrections’ & Dictation.. Should say:
    I can now recognize Annie R’s work

  5. Suzanne and Jack

    Anne you always describe things so well. The food sounds absolutely delicious AND so healthy! I could travel throughout Italy guided by your articles. Thank you.

  6. Looks absolutely delicious! And described so well, Anne. We may have found the location of our next vacation! Very much enjoy reading your posts!

    Add me to future posts please! Great information!

  7. Rachel Cohen

    What a wonderful looking menu! And thank you for this — I’ve never understood what a n’cuonsa was — I think that Camillieri uses the term in one of the Montalbano books. Thanks for this entry!

  8. Anna Retsker

    Anne? I was waiting for your articles and finally you are back. Beautiful scenery, good and healthy food, a lot of sun – this is all fantastic! I am happy for you and thanks for sharing!

  9. Lynn Cowhig

    You make it sound even better than it looks…wonderful! So glad more of your articles to read.

  10. Mutt Nutt

    Always learning something new and intimate about Italy from Anne, not just the food but the people, the culture and their livelihood. Marettimo blues sounds like a beautiful song!

  11. Jenny Hannan

    Wow, Annie. Now I’m starving and have to head out for something to eat, perhaps not quite so enticing as the food in your photos, but golly, you eat well in Firenze too!

  12. Sarah Grimes

    Truly a fish lover’s paradise. Thanks for the entertaining and informative blogs on Italy and Sicily!

  13. Stephanie W

    Well, all I can say s YUUUUMMMM! I was unfamiliar with this beautiful island, but now it’s been added to my Italy bucket list. I see now why you are so fond of this spot. Thanks again, now I’m humgry!


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