To sit at a Maltese table for dinner or lunch is to sit at a table that will groan under the weight of multiple overflowing dishes of food.
The Maltese enjoy their meals. This is a country where restaurant managers apologise that a starter is smaller than a main and then upgrade it with salads and sides turning it into a full course in itself. To receive anything less would be an insult.
A late 16th century hunting lodge with vaulted ceilings and original stone floors, Rogantino’s feels more like a kindly neighbour’s house than a restaurant. And taking advantage of the warming sunshine at a table on the terrace outside amongst fields of flowers, only intensified the feeling further.
Many things were brought to our table: plump red-black olives, creamy white cheese, and crunchy crust bread quickly yet carefully topped with tomato puree, olive oil, and chopped mint. While Hobz Biz-Zejt actually translates to “bread with oil” it is anything but so simple. Covered with a sweet tomato puree – kunserva – and then topped with olive oil and other ingredients such as black pepper, garlic, olives, capers, or even tuna or anchovies – depending on the preparer.
The fragrant smell of tomatoes and mint, the zang of sweet and umami on my tongue, and the warmth of sunshine on my shoulders are sensations I will never forget from my time on the island of Malta.