And the winner of the best pastizzi in Malta goes to...
There's a reason why the Maltese talk about pastizzi a lot. For the unacquainted, pastizzi (pastizz for a singular one) are a traditional flaky and crisp savoury pastry, indigenous to Malta. They're usually diamond or round-shaped, and have a filling of either ricotta or mushy peas. The pastry is folded in different ways according to the filling, and they're typically baked on metal trays in electric or gas ovens in a pastizzeria (pastizzi shop), which is usually a small or family-run affair.
When you get a good one, the crunch of the bite followed by the ooze of the warm tasty filling can be spine-tingling. They're cheap (35c each), they fill your stomach, and they can be eaten at any time of the day, which means that there's there’s a pastizzerija in virtually every village, and numerous ones on high-traffic streets. The pastry used is a phyllo-like pastry, which is stretched and rolled with layers of fat in between to achieve optimum flakiness. Needless to say, they are not the healthiest of food choices, yet the Maltese consume a lot of these delicious little snacks.
I have been burdened with the quest of finding the best pastizzi in Malta.
I'll admit - having lived in Malta for over 25 years, I smugly thought that I knew the place - Maxims in Gzira, of course.
However, when asking the local experts what they thought (just in case), their response was unanimous: Is-Serkin Crystal Palace Bar in Rabat, next to the Roman Villa. I had a vague recollection of hearing about people ending long nights out with a visit to some pastizzerija in Rabat, but I had never experienced it for myself.
Naturally, I had to try these magical pastizzi from Is-Serkin in Rabat. I picked up one ricotta and one pea pastizz after snapping a few shots of the very friendly guy behind the bar, and jumped into my car. Now I probably shouldn't share this, but in my defence, I was extremely hungry and really strapped for time that day. I wanted to get back to the office pronto, so my intention was to take the pastizzi there, and then eat them like a normal human being.
The pastizzi sat in its little white paper bag on the passenger seat for about four minutes until I conceded to taking a bite while driving. Again, for the rookies, you should never eat pastizzi - particularly good pastizzi - in a car. Everyone knows this. You're holding it with one hand and biting, while the folds of pastry crack and crunch, causing little bits of pastry to explode all over your mouth and the sides of your face. The rest falls all over your clothes and car seat. It is absolutely staggering how a single pastizz can be responsible for so many pastry flakes.
"It was one of the single most satisfying experiences I have ever had. Almost spiritual, in fact."
I was starving that particular late Wednesday morning, and so I made the mistake of taking that bite. It turned into a ferocious feed in which the pea pastizz was gone within less than a minute. Other people in cars met my eyes knowingly with a glint of pity, as the flakes stuck to my hair. I stopped at a traffic light, undid the top button of my jeans, and started on the ricotta one.
It was one of the single most satisfying experiences I have ever had. Almost spiritual, in fact. While Maxims' pastizzi are undeniably excellent, Is-Serkin Crystal Palace Bar takes it to a whole different level.
Oh, and just a side note while I'm here, it's worthy to note that such is its popularity, the word pastizz has multiple meanings in Maltese. It's used as a euphemism for the female sexual organ, (due to its shape), and also for describing someone as an idiot!