The Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino are unique in their culture and their cuisine. Located in the Mediterranean Sea, the isles of this archipelago have benefitted from the influence of various civilizations throughout history. As such the Maltese people have cultivated their exceptional gastronomy, with touches from other cultures, that are distinctive and delightful.
In 2020, Malta cuisine was elevated to a new level of culinary fortitude as the first Malta Michelin Star Guide awarded the first Michelin stars to restaurants on the islands. The guide emphasizes top restaurants, local varieties of cuisines and culinary skills across Malta, Gozo and Comino. Michelin stars were awarded to De Mondion, Chef Kevin Bonello; Noni, Chef Jonathan Brincat; Under Grain, Chef Victor Borg.
These newly awarded Michelin stars are the toast of the town. But Malta’s traditional fare with its eclectic roots and farm-to-table concepts is a prize all their own. Chefs around the islands rely heavily on the abundance of local resources – produce, proteins and more. Menus often are based on seasonally available items and draw influence from North Africa to Sicily and beyond. Some of the most favored local flavors are fish pie, rabbit stew, Maltese ratatouille and bean-and-garlic pate with native bread and olive oil. Being islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino benefit from an abundance of fish, which is readily integrated into local gastronomy. When fishing nets are overflowing, local chefs are likely to who up Aljotta – a traditional fish soup. Seasonally, pescatarian menus rotate, including everything from Spnotta to Cerna to trill. Pastas and soups are often laden with octopus and squid. Those with a sweet tooth will delight in local delicacies of kannolis, cassata and helwa tat-Tork at the end of a meal.
If you’re out and about well into the evening or simply don’t want to sit down to dine, Pastizzi is a Maltese street food you can’t miss. This flaky, diamond-shaped pastry is filled with everything from spinach or mushy peas to rabbit or tuna or even the sweeter option of ricotta. Crystal Palace, a local bar outside Mdina is said to have the best Pastizzi in Malta.
There is nothing better to accompany a traditional meal than a local libation. Oenophiles celebrate the Maltese islands for its vines that produce some of the world’s finest wines. The islands are said to have excellent growing conditions to produce beautiful vintages with brilliant colors, clean aromas and lively acidity. One of the most renowned vineyards, Meridiana’s Wine Cellars, produces wonderous wines using only local grapes. Wine tasting tours are an excellent activity in Malta.
The groves in Malta aren’t just growing grapes, however. Olives are one of the Maltese islands’ most important facets. Olive picking season begins in September with the Żejt iż-Żejtun festival. It celebrates the blessing of the olives and taste testing the freshly pressed oils, which are fundamental in Maltese cooking.