This restaurant in Valletta reminds us to go back to our roots

Where ingredients are concerned, L’Artiglio’s main focus has and remains to be fresh, local and as much as possible, sustainable

Are you sitting down? If not, I highly recommend that you make yourself some tea, grab that piece of Figolla you promised you wouldn’t touch and buckle up. It’s time to embark on a food journey.

Our destination: L’Artiglio, Melita Street, Valletta.

If you haven’t yet heard of L’Artiglio, I’m not sure where you’ve been living, but do not fret, I’m about to make sure you never forget.

We met with executive chef Janine Camilleri who, with a fervent smile, tried to mentally prepare us for the fact that we were about to taste no less than 9 dishes. Challenge accepted, Janine!

She began by describing her love and passion for what she referred to as “real, genuine food,” as opposed to the tiny portioned dots of deconstructed foam many fine-dining restaurants are opting to serve as of late.

With a young, eclectic team who exude the same passion and vigor as Janine, their menu is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Allowing every team member full creative freedom, says Janine, is key as it often results in sometimes unconventional, yet always delicious, home-run dishes. It’s what she believes makes the chefs excel, push their boundaries and grow.

Where ingredients are concerned, L’Artiglio’s main focus has and remains to be fresh, local and as much as possible, sustainable. Their menu changes according to what’s in season, just like the crunchy Gozitan asparagus, which was brought in mere seconds before Janine put her apron on that same morning.

Speaking of Gozitan asparagus, let’s get down to business, shall we?

First up, an array of starters including neonati fritters, peppata di cozze, spring pea soup, calamari fritti and red prawn and coconut risotto.

I would just like to point out that I have never before in my life (and I do not make this claim lightly) tasted better neonati fritters… or peppata di cozze, for that matter.

Fresher than fresh, seasoned to perfection and accompanied by warm, toasted Maltese bread, what more could you possibly want? With an uncontrollable grin on my face and a thirst for more, I was ready for my mains.

Next up: a combination of some of the most unusual pairings I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. For instance, the char-grilled octopus. Not only was it sitting happily on a bed of falafel, but grilled halloumi and an onion and chickpea sauce also featured. Maybe I’m uncultured, but I normally associate octopus with spaghetti, garlic and very little else. For lack of a better phrase, L’Artiglio was slowly but surely broadening my horizons or at the very least, teaching me to step out of my comfort zone. Is the dish unconventional? Certainly. Is it a home run? Without a doubt.

Moving on to the flour dusted mackerel fillets and slow cooked beef rib. The former featuring nduja risotto, a spicy spreadable salami from Calabria, which melts right into the risotto, as well as your mouth and heart. The latter, had much more of a traditional feel, featuring butternut squash and fresh broccoli, corn on the cob and local peas.

Both were cooked to perfection and great illustrations of L’Artiglio’s versatility. Whether it’s pistachio crumble atop red prawn and coconut risotto, or a simple mackerel fillet you’re after, I urge you to leave it in the hands of Janine, sous chef Daniel Galea, chef de tournant Ritianne Bondin and the rest of her dedicated team. Believe you me, you’ll be coming back for seconds (and thirds and fourths).

We finished the delightful evening off with a coffee custard and a red berry mousse and bade farewell to the restaurant we plan on visiting on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future.

L’Artiglio is open from Monday to Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you have ample time ansd opportunity to allow L’Artiglio to once again, introduce you to “real, genuine food.”

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2247 6601

64, Melita Street