Just a 90 minute ferry ride from Sicily and just north of Tunisia and Libya, this country is small but is a crossroads of culture and cuisine.
Gozoitan, Paceville, Malta
Gozo is one of the smaller islands in the archipelago that makes up the country of Malta and the restaurant’s name means ‘person from Gozo,’ The owner hails from Gozo, but opened his restaurant in Paceville, on the bigger island of Malta, in an area that’s known for nightlife. With an open –air feel, you’re practically dining al fresco. Hint: ask for extra sauce with the bread. It’s that good.
Recommended: Fried Gozo cheese, ravjul, rabbit prepared chef’s choice. Date pastries and ice cream for dessert.
Ciapetti, Mdina, Malta
This garden restaurant offers a respite from the tourist-laden streets of Mdina. This hideaway is surrounded by stone walls offers a long menu that transports diners to Italy. Take a long lunch like the locals and be transported into a different world. If it’s too sunny, or overcast, the restaurant will open the umbrellas at each table which offers a lovely canopy from the sun, or the rain.
Recommended: Butternut squash soup, bragioli, pizza.
Jeffrey’s, Gharb, Gozo
This local favorite requires a reservation because of the size. The wine racks stand floor to ceiling as if built in closets. The antique woodwork is finished off with hand-crafted doorknobs. Jeffery’s offers a dining experience where you are so welcome it’s as if you are sitting in a friend’s dining room. Part of the charm is that the owner’s young son races to clear each table as patrons leave.
Recommended: Fish soup. Pasta or rabbit – order whatever the special of the day is. The chef knows what he is doing.
A gem (the name escapes me but the lesson is don’t judge a book by its cover), Valleta, Malta
This hidden gem is tucked away off a main street in Valletta’s bustling port. As you turn the corner down a non-descript alley, taste buds are awakened as one can smell the culinary delights from down the street. There are no more than eight tables, and each seats no more than four people. Every table has a clear view of the kitchen which creates a comfortable at-home feeling.
Recommended: Swordfish carpaccio and pasta.
Ir Rokna, St. Julians, Malta
Ir Rokna is the oldest and, some say, the best pizza on the archipelago. It’s hard to dispute these claims. The interior of the restaurant feels more like a Swiss chalet than a pizzeria. The pizza menu will satisfy nearly every taste with enough variety to satisfy everyone. The restaurant also offers classic pastas and salads if one is not in the mood for pizza. Ask for a corner table by the front window to secure a good people-watching vantage point.
Recommended: Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.