Ike's Guide to Where and What to Eat in St. Julian's
EPT Malta starts in a few days and I'm quite excited. Not only is the European Poker Tour coming to Malta, but it is coming literally to my front door, not even 5 minutes from my apartment. I'm going to get to play tons of great live poker and spend time with friends I don't get to see very often, and I'm not even going to have to leave home to do it. It couldn't possibly be more convenient.
I have been lucky enough to call the beautiful Mediterranean island of Malta my home for almost four years now, and in that time I have come to know my neighborhood of St. Julian's fairly well. Specifically, I have come to know where to eat. There is some really outstanding food to be found within the immediate vicinity of the tournament venue and I feel I would be remiss if I failed to pass along my recommendations.
This is Ike's Guide to Where and What to Eat in St. Julian's, Malta
Mr. Maxim's Pastizzeria
Corner of Triq Ross and Triq San Gorg
This is my favorite neighborhood pastizzi stand. Pastizzi are traditional Maltese fast food. The most famous type is the cheese cake, which is like a savory cheese danish, with Maltese ricotta cheese baked into a pocket of something sort of like a cross between croissant and philo dough. They're best right out of the oven when they're still hot. I also recommend the pea cakes, sausage rolls and apple pies. They also serve a type of bready, eggy, greasy pizza by the slice (it reminds me of what Americans call "Sicilian style" pizza). Also, no need to bring anything other than loose change. €5 will get you more than you'll be able to eat. And the park across the street has nice benches for sitting on while you gobble down a cheese cake or two on a sunny day. Fast enough and close enough to the venue to grab a snack on 15 minute break.
9 Church St +356 2138 0000 http://chapteronemalta.com
My favorite "fancy" restaurant on Malta. The head chef/proprietor is a Maltese guy who learned to cook in Malta, then spent several years working in a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris before returning home to open his own restaurant. I'd describe the type of cuisine as modern French techniques with Maltese flavors and ingredients. Come hungry because portions are large and you're going to want to order multiple courses. They have an impressive wine list and a few really special grappas behind the bar as well. The service is always remarkably welcoming and unpretentious. Reservations recommended but it's often possible to be seated without one, particularly on weeknights.
63A Wilga St +356 2136 0036
Best pizza I've had on Malta. Competitive with the best pizza I've had in Italy. Outstanding crust. Everything else on the menu is great, too. They also have a very well curated and largely very affordable wine list focused on Sicilian wines. The service is warm and accommodating, the chairs are comfortable, there really isn't a single thing to dislike about this restaurant except that there's sometimes a wait for a table.
Sale e Pepe
This restaurant benefits from a beautiful location down the stairs on the Portomaso Marina with a patio overlooking the water. This restaurant also benefits from the fact that they serve perfection in pasta form. Heaping portions of it. They have a seasonal menu that changes, but last time I was there I had a linguine with local prawns and sweet chilis that was incredible. The paccheri gragnano is heavenly and often on the menu. The spaghetti carbonara is reliably on the menu and reliably incredible (and reliably heart attack inducing). If you're in a big group, they also make an impressive salt baked whole fish. This restaurant is a good bit pricier than the dozens of other places nearby with similar menus, but worth the difference in my opinion. Dinner reservations recommended.
Portomaso Marina +356 2135 9559 http://zerisrestaurant.com/
This is the kind of seafood place where the printed menu is an afterthought. They just tell you what's fresh and ask how you'd like it prepared. I recommend starting off with some shellfish - the local prawns are always especially delicious. I also recommend a pasta dish that they serve a particularly good version of, a local specialty called spaghetti ai rizzi, spaghetti in a decadent sea urchin sauce. Dinner reservations required, you will get turned away without one, even on weeknights. Lunch reservations on weekends recommended.
Meat & Co
8 St. George's Road +356 2138 5000 http://meatandco.com.mt
If you're craving meat, this Italian steakhouse is the place to go. I recommend trying the scottona, which is meat from young cows, not more than 2 years old. It's more flavorful than veal, but more tender than a typical steak. They also have a number of interesting Italian craft beers on the menu and a nice view over Spinola Bay.
8 Dragonara Road +356 2138 4399 http://www.shivasindiancuisine.com
Surprisingly good Indian food. Malta is very short on good food that isn't Italian/Maltese, but this place is great. The service sometimes tends toward the slow and surly end of the spectrum but the food is delicious and more than makes up for it. Reservations recommended. You might get a table without one but they'll be a lot nicer about it if you reserve in advance. Delivery available, but it's not fast.
Triq San Gorg between Triq Ross and Triq Gort
Nothing out of the ordinary, just a decent, cheap, fast kebab and burger shop, open until like 2 or 3 during the week and 4 or later on Fridays and Saturdays. I eat here a ton.
Triq Ball +356 2135 9694
The only 24 hour sit down restaurant in St Julian's. Nothing they make is great, but the pastas are better than the other stuff. Gets the job done when you want a hot meal at 4am.
Conveniently located for stocking up on snacks. Their produce section is a little mediocre but their deli counter is awesome and has a very well curated selection of high quality meats and cheeses and prepared salads and things. Their bakery also produces a nice crusty ftira, a kind of Maltese roll that is great for sandwiches.
Some general advice:
Stick with Mediterranean/European type places. Avoid Asian. With the exception of Shiva's, I have not had a good Asian meal yet on Malta. And do not go to the Mexican place in Paceville unless you are curious to see what happens when people who have seemingly never even seen Mexican food before decide to open a Mexican restaurant. It's bizarre.
I hope this little guide is useful to anyone who's coming to Malta for the EPT and I hope everyone who comes falls in love with Malta the way I have. It's a beautiful place with wonderful food and a fascinating culture and I am fortunate to have spent the time here that I have. Safe travels, everybody, and see you soon!