Perhaps the beauty of stepping into a restaurant that doesn’t tie itself down to having a menu, automatically seals an unwritten guarantee of freshness and quality. This is of utmost importance, particularly when it comes to seafood dishes, since freshness is key to each and every meal prepared.
The chef’s dishes cater to the day-to-day availability of different kinds of fish. Since our signature grilling technique is so unique, we normally opt for larger fish-types. The size of a fish automatically dictates its appropriateness for grilling, because the larger it is, the more suitable and able to resist the grill’s temperature
Here at Sciacca, we don’t simply cook fish in a pan and serve it on the plate. We do things differently, because we believe there’s a fine line between creating a dish that’s delicious and one which will leave our patrons feeling like they’ve participated in a culinary experience. The majority of our fish is bought locally, because this further assures freshness.
Just like with our meat dishes, we’re equally big on flavour with our seafood dishes, and the way they’re cooked is testimony to this. Since many of the types of fish we purchase are large (usually the average fish weighing around 8-15kgs), we choose grilling as a main cookery technique. However, it doesn’t stop there. After the grilling process is complete, we use our special Josper oven trays, which is practical for fish that is particularly tough. Initially seared, it’s then put in this tray and cooked in a bit of stock with some cherry tomatoes and basil added to enhance the flavour. The fish is then cooked slowly in the grill whilst still in the pan. Needless to say, the result of this method of cooking is exquisite.
The flavour we manage to execute is one that not many are able to achieve, since we have a secret combination of specifically selected wood and charcoal which in turn contributes to the smoky flavour in the fish.
Paying homage to our local products
We pride ourselves in purchasing premium quality fish. Having our own local supplier for fish, this makes our selection even more special, since our provider knows exactly the types of fish we usually serve at our restaurant. Every morning the chef contacts our agent to check which fish are and aren’t available on the particular day in question, so that a menu can be planned accordingly.
Our prawns, calamari, mussels and clams are usually purchased locally, because we believe in supporting the local market firstly and then opting for international fish when the local produce or season does not permit us to acquire the desired fish. Again, depending on season, rough sea, and at time, cases where mussels or clams are unavailable, we resort to importation from Italy or Scotland.
Types of Fish we offer
Anchovies – we import the renowned brand of Codesa anchovies, which originate from the Cantabrian Sea. These anchovies are particularly bred in springtime because this is their specific season of maturity. When it comes to this type of fish, it’s very timeframe specific, and it’s this very factor that warrants their great taste and quality.
While other companies choose to catch anchovies in autumn, we believe that this diminishes their optimal worth considerably. Our product is artisanal: there’s a lot of craftsmanship and skill involved in the final product. Such traditional methods are further authenticated with a small certificate attached to each tin which further confirms the genuineness of the fish.
Stonebass – is a fish related to the Grouper, and inhabits rocky ledges and wrecks. Also referred to as Atlantic Wreckfish, this deep-water fish is found on the ocean bottom at depths between 40 and 600 m (130 to 2,000 ft), where it inhabits caves and shipwrecks, hence its name. Usually grilled until the flesh is almost completely opaque, its finish is smoky with a robust flavour and great meat texture.
Tuna – this is obviously season-dependent, and is a popular Mediterranean choice since it’s a saltwater fish. Spring and summer are the peak seasons for this fish. Tuna is a widely regarded fish and is possibly one of the most versatile fish since it can be prepared in a variety of ways for the sake of achieving specific flavours and textures. When served as a steak, the meat of most species is known for its thickness and somewhat tough texture, which is perfect for searing first and grilling soon after. Owing to the richness of flavour tuna is known for, we let its essence stand out, which is why we serve it with a subtle trickle of aged balsamic or olive oil, depending on one’s preference.
Amberjack – a fish most often found in the warmer parts of the ocean, this fish exists in a number of varieties, including greater amberjacks (Atlantic), lesser amberjacks (Atlantic), Almaco jack (Pacific), yellowtail (Pacific), and the banded rudderfish (Atlantic).
Here at Sciacca, we usually serve the greater amberjack, which is characterised by its dark stripes extending from its nose to the front of its dorsal fins. It can reach the size of approximately 18kg, and normally found in rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks, typically in 20 to 75 metres. The amberjack is cooked beautifully with its skin on, first seared then grilled, and once it’s done the skin is simply removed and served in its simple goodness, with just a drizzle of olive oil, letting its great taste speak for itself.
We keep our lobsters in separate aquariums. For the locally caught lobsters and similar crustaceans like crayfish, they’re left in an aquarium which is temperature-controlled, similar to that of a fridge. On occasions where we don’t find Mediterranean lobsters, we have another temperature-specific aquarium, with higher than usual temperatures, since such lobsters would be originating from other parts of the world. This is particularly useful for the winter months, due to lack of availability in the local spectrum.
When local produce seems to be scarce, we opt for Scottish (bluish in colour) or Canadian (reddish in colour) lobsters. This is why it’s imperative to have different aquariums of varying temperatures, because depending on the time of the year, the lobster’s origin varies. Nevertheless, in summer, we can rely on our local produce, particularly the small, but mighty Maltese lobster called Awwista.
Once we’ve purchased the lobster, we either grill it with our exceptional oven or cook it with our popular pasta dish: Lobster Bisque. The latter dish is composed of a sauce which is created from lobster shells, with generous chunks of lobster added towards the completion of the plate.
A significant factor worth highlighting is the manner in which the lobster is prepared prior to its cookery. There are several methods used for killing lobsters. We choose to place them in iced water, so they are numbed and ‘put to sleep’, so when killed, they experience little to no pain. As with every living thing, we firmly believe it should be treated with respect, thus ending its life the most painless manner possible.
Nowadays, in the competitive market we live in today, this is an aspect that is often overlooked. Of course, like any business we try our best to safeguard the financial viability and profitability of our restaurant. That being said, we also acknowledge it’s not as clear cut as it might present itself at face value. For instance, we don’t simply ask our supplier to provide us with shellfish at any given moment. Instead, we opt for a more sustainable approach, whereby we wait until there is an availability of say 2-3kgs of clams, and purchase them at that point in time.
All of our seafood dishes are served in much the same way as our meat dishes are: accompanied by potatoes and vegetables and at times, a sauce that specifically complements the particular fish.
If you were impressed with our meat cuts, then let us be the first to tell you, you’re in for a pleasant surprise once you sample our seafood! Your taste buds will be left tingling with the burst of flavours you’ll experience when devouring our food. But don’t take our word for it… we encourage you to book a table at Sciacca situated in Paceville.