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Food & Dining in Malta


Dining al fresco is one of life's simple pleasures. It's almost a daily possibility in Malta. Choose from courtyards of baroque palazzos to harbour restaurants and local café-bars. Find somewhere secluded, or dine in a busy trattoria.

The Islands' cuisine is influenced by the people who made their home here over the centuries, from the Arabs, Italians and Spanish to the French and British. Traditional Maltese cooking has distinct touches of the Sicilian and Moorish. Look out for rich sweets, pastries and deserts of ricotta, almonds and figs as well as tomato and wine sauces with pasta, rabbit and fish.

Restaurant menus follow the seasons using the best of available fare: from tomatoes, zucchini, herbs and olives to fish like lampuki, a national favourite, swordfish and tuna.

International cuisine is available everywhere. Most restaurants are influenced by Italian or French cuisine, but there are plenty specialising in Oriental, Tex Mex and other themes. In true Mediterranean style, children are welcome everywhere.

For a quick, but substantial snack during the day try some pastizzi, bite-sized, ricotta or pea-filled flaky pastries. You'll never be far from refreshments or snacks. Just pop into a local bar.

Malta produces some fine wines from native grapes and most visitors soon discover the excellent local beers.

Culinary Heritage

Traditional Maltese food was until recent years relegated to the home. As in all parts of the Mediterranean, the daily main meal, often still cooked at lunchtime here, is an occasion to bring the family together. Until the past decade or so, this home cooking was found only in village bars.

Today though, there has been renewed interest in the Islands' rich culinary heritage. There are numerous television and radio programmes and weekly columns on Maltese fare - you'll even find recipe write-ups in Air Malta's in-flight magazine.

This revival has also encouraged more restaurants to offer local fare. They proudly serve their own version of specialities such as Lampuki Pie (fish pie), Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (beef olives) and various ricotta sweets and semi-freddo deserts like Cassata.

Seasonal Favourites

Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. In the era before refrigeration, this made sense. Families were inventive with the best of the seasonal produce. The housewife would stock up with the seasonal gluts, often preserving or drying produce to make use of them later in the year.

In the past, as in most southern Mediterranean diets, meat was scarce so fish played major role. Even today, many older people follow the Catholic tradition of eating fish on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Specialities use a lot of vegetables, from zucchini, artichokes, the giant cabbage and cauliflower that grow here, sun-ripened tomatoes and potatoes. Stuffed marrows and tomatoes, and thick vegetable minestra (soups) are frequently on the menu in homes and restaurants.

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