A new place to visit in Catania is La Vecchia Dogana. The building is that of Catania's old customs house located in the port and now renovated and filled with shops and restaurants. The theme here is definitely all things Sicilian: food, wines, books, ceramics, and other locally produced temptations. In fact, it calls itself the 'tasting showroom of Catania'. The space is pretty, a kind of an indoor food court in a big, airy, historic building that has been nicely renovated with sky lights, escalators and even a pair of gigantic Sicilian puppet sculptures hanging from the ceiling. These refer to the new Sicilian puppet museum that also has a home in the old customs house and was not yet open as of a few weeks ago. I have also read that there is a cinema in the building but did not see it during our recent visit.
While the place may intend to be a kind of welcome to Sicily center for the ship loads of tourist that spend a few hours docked in Catania as a day stop on their Mediterranean cruise, I am sure the locals will be pleased by this new destination, too. It is easily reachable from the center and gives reason to pass under the old bridge that separates the center from the port.
Even though the focus is on everything Sicilan, there are a few non-Sicilian eating choices, too. Most enticing (to me) are the burger joint, also yet to open as of a few weeks ago and the name of which escapes me at the moment, and Dr. Juice, a Maltese-based juice bar that serves not only smoothies and freshly squeezed juices but also American style soups and sandwiches, including bagels and wraps (!!!). On our first visit we thoroughly enjoyed a couple of smoothies and spicy tuna wraps for lunch. By chance the owner of the juice bar was there training his new employees and getting the place set up for its grand opening. A nice young chap who is in the process of expanding his operation from the island of Malta onto the island of Sicily. The Vecchia Dogana is his second location in Catania and I wish him the best of luck. I'll definitely be back when the urge for something quick and decidedly non-Italian strikes again.