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The essence of the things we love at Giuseppi's

Anyone calling themselves a foodie in Malta knows of the quaint little restaurant in the townhouse in Mellieha that goes by the name of Giuseppi’s. A few of the more regulars will know that sadly this place has closed down. Before you shed a tear, it is only the building we’ve lost as chef patron, Michael Diacono, has taken the concept, with a bit of a revamp, to a new location in the Salini Resort.

In the restaurant world, the astute notice certain patterns. A sense of culinary karma, if you will. Another cardboard cutout restaurant opening its doors is counterbalanced by a menu revamp from an old favourite. A gifted chef moving away from an established haunt is matched by an up-and-comer making their mark.

This sense of karmic justice cannot be clearer than when we talk about Giuseppi’s. For decades, chef Michael Diacono has brought his inimitable style to a quaint Mellieha townhouse, which felt more like nanna’s house than a restaurant. The food was similarly comforting – fresh ingredients, a cooking style that respected every part of the dish, and that unmistakable attention to detail that really made Giuseppi’s a hidden treasure.

There may have been tears in my eyes when I learned that Giuseppi’s would be shutting its doors. It was a national culinary treasure, if there ever was one.

The lachrymose news however was only part of it. Giuseppi’s wasn’t closing down per se. Sure, the townhouse would no longer be a restaurant, but Giuseppi’s was about to open elsewhere…

It was with barely concealed glee that I was asked to review the new restaurant. Perched high above the Coast Road, the new Giuseppi’s was, in a word, gorgeous. Part of the newly refurbished Salini Hotel, the restaurant’s outdoor area is a vision in wood textures – dark decking, complemented by a whitewashed bar and beautiful lighting. Despite being outside, there was a distinct feeling of homeliness – the terrace is by no means small but it somehow felt familial, friendly and welcoming.

When it comes to the food, anyone who has eaten at either of Diacono’s restaurants (See: glowing reviews in previous editions of Gourmet Today) will feel right at home. The menu is small and very carefully curated – you’ll find a balance of fish, meat and pasta, each more enticing than the last.

I started off with some Maltese sausage and ricotta lunette while my guest chose the crispy rabbit bellies. The pasta was a fusion of familiar ingredients, fresh parcels containing a wonderfully delicate combination of Mediterranean flavours. The light and airy rabbit bellies came with a coriander, ginger and sesame seed salsa, which brought a distinctly Asian flavor to an otherwise ubiquitously Maltese dish.

After we had eaten more bread and galletti than is advisable (they’ve kept the bean dip and homemade butter from the old restaurant – yes, they are still just as delicious), we met our main courses. A stack of coffee-seared tuna steak arrived, much to my guest’s delight, and I may have let out a small gasp when my baked lamb rump appeared. The fish had a wonderful colour gradient and the coffee gave it a distinct (and distinctly delicious) earthiness. The lamb sat on a small mound of hummus and the medium-rare meat lacked that gaminess that sometimes plagues dishes with inferior ingredients. Combined with the roast veg and potatoes, the rosemary and mustard marinated lamb, combing with the hummus, made for a moreish dish, packed with flavor. And that dark, smoky crust? Sublime.

We only just made it to dessert – both those main courses weren’t exactly tiny and someone forgot to collect the dips so we had to finish them – and boy am I glad we did. My guest picked the chocolate cheesecake, a light and not-too-sweet creation that perfectly rounded off a meal punctuated by rich flavours and bold combinations. I didn’t even need to read the whole dessert menu – I stopped when I saw the churros. I had never seen the deep-fried pastry on any menu locally, so I had to try them. For science, you see. Soaked in cream, accompanied by strawberry slices, and glistening with a coating of sugar and cinnamon, these tubular creations were all I could have hoped for and more.

As our evening came to an end, I thought a bit on the nature of life – how it seems to present opportunities just when something beloved comes to an end; how the essence of the things we love continues on in new and unexpected places. Then I thought about those churros again and got distracted.

Giuseppi’s Bar and Bistro

Salini Resort,

Naxxar

Tel: 21574882

Facebook: giuseppisrestaurant

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