Like any controversial figure, the mighty anchovy is a highly misunderstood food type. In the US, unfortunately, preserved anchovies have a bad reputation and are seen as a bad smelling (and overly salty) fish. The reputation, however, is undeserved and the tiny dynamo of a fish should be consumed with pleasure and as often as possible!
(photo: my favorite brand, Scalia; thanks to Dr. K for picture)
For most Italians, and especially the Italians of Southern Italy, the Acciughe (anchovies preserved in salt) and alici (fresh anchovies) are a staple food. Anchovies are often eaten on toast with good olive oil, fried, baked, added to sauces, etc. Anchovies are a wonder food and high in antioxidants and low in mercury. The best anchovies come from the Mediterranean (near Sicily) and the North Atlantic. You can find Anchovies packed in salt or oil or sold in good markets by the pound (fresh or salted, per the above picture).
I usually serve Anchovies in an impromptu weekend lunch, alongside a salad of tomatoes with basil and red onion, good bread, oil cured olives, and a bit of cheese and salumi
(you could also include anchovies in a salad Nicoise
). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and want to de-head, gut, and remove backbones, you can deep fry a batch of fresh anchovies and let your significant other do the clean-up! Fried anchovies are particularly good with fresh lemon and a very cold glass of beer / lager or white wine (here’s my post on fried sardines and smelts