On an island where every bakery makes Maltese ftira and sandwiches are taken with the utmost seriousness, which is the best?
Maltese ftira bread is an extremely important part of the local diet. The disc-shaped semi-flat bread made with flour, water and salt came about hundreds of years ago, when the Maltese had to make the most of the resources available. The texture and taste is reminiscent of ciabatta, yet it's still unique in both regards. Literally translating to 'bread with oil', ħobz biż-żejt (a ftira sandwich) is filled with virtually anything, but most typically, tomato paste is used to coat the interior sides of the bread while the sandwich is filled with canned tuna, pickled capers, olives, onion, and mint. Very often, sun-dried tomatoes, beans, and very finely chopped lettuce will be added to the mix. However, extremely popular amongst the male morning crowds is breakfast ftira, which comprises fried eggs and bacon.
When you post a request for recommendations of the best ftira on the island, you're starting up a very serious discussion. As one recommender wisely posted, "In fairness, I don't think anyone can really afford to make a bad ftira in Malta, particularly if people are having their lunch break there".
The response to the request for recommendations was tremendous, but there was a clear winner: Buchman's in Gzira. Second place goes to Duke's Snack Bar in Msida, while Serafino (formerly known as Straws) in Sliema came in at third place. The rest, as listed below, are also worth mentioning - recommended as they were by very reliable locals. Besides - there's bound to be one near your locality to check out, if you haven't yet!
"Try Duke's Snack Bar... you get to tell him what you want in it... if you tell him 'b-kollox', he'll put egg, Maltese sausage... everything but the kitchen sink in it."
Andrew's Snack Bar, Birkirkara
Cafe 77, Gzira
Dick's Bar & Cafe, Msida
Gharghur Band Club
ĠUGAR - Hangout & Bar
Hondoq Kiosk, Gozo
Mekkek Bar, Swieqi
Merhba Baqra, Fgura
Mgarr Farmers Snack Bar
OK Bar, Naxxar
Olympic Bar (Xufi), Mosta
The Fort Cafe, Burmarrad
I couldn't get a mental picture of Buchmann's when it kept coming up in the recommendations, but when I stopped by to taste one of their ftira sandwiches for myself, I realised that I had driven past this snack bar so many times. I had always wondered how they dared to hang the 'Get a taste of the best ftira on the island' sign outside, and well, now I know. The best thing I can say is that you just have to try it for yourself!
I couldn't end this article without including a recommendation by Radio DJ and TV Presenter Colin Fitz: "Try Duke's Snack Bar... you get to tell him what you want in it... if you tell him 'b-kollox' he'll put egg, Maltese sausage... everything but the kitchen sink in it."