Swordfish is the totem fish of Sicily. Around the straits of Messina you may still see the traditional swordfish boat, the spatara, with a tall mast and a lookout for sighting them, and one long boom projecting out from the bow, for another man to spear them.
Sicilian (and Calabrian) swordfish (often written simply as spada on menus) is great grilled with a bit of lemon, or even better as swordfish involtini—sliced thin and rolled around a stuffing of bread crumbs, onions, raisins and pine nuts, then grilled on skewers. Braccioli di pesce spada are similar, this slices wrapped around a mix of vegetables and cheese, and then grilled. From the famous fishing town of Bagnara Calabra comes pesce spada alla bagnarese, roasted in the oven with olive oil, capers, lemon and parsley.
In Tuscany, expect it done with tomato, capers and olives: pesce spada alla livornese. A similar recipe is popular in Liguria.
In June, coinciding with St John's Day, the Sagra di Pesce Spada is held in Acitrezza just north of Catania in Sicily.
Images by: Flavia Brandi