Restaurants Malta | Planetmona

Wednesday, Apr 16th

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Restaurants Malta - Paradise Found

Paradise Found

Bocconci

They tried once, around the time of the review, but later visits have left nothing but disappointment

 
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So there we were, the Financial Wizard and I, so engrossed in a conversation at the Flower Man’s house that I forgot to ask him to guide me about my money situation and my unhealthy addiction to net-a-porter. Instead, he was exclaiming about what everybody else exclaims about: how come that in our restaurants we pay so much for so little? And this time it was not a Ta’ Soldi situation. By ‘how little’ he was referring to quality.

I know that restaurants have high overheads. In fact, the ones that really produce excellent quality stuff – like the tremendous Ta’ Frenc in Gozo – have to support what they do with many other things that hardly have anything to do with food. Good quality raw materials and well-trained staff with regular stagés at Michelin-starred restaurants don’t come cheap, or easy.

I think that what FW meant was something akin to the experience The Writer and I recently had at Taj Mahal. A good look at www.planetmona.com and I realise that I gave this restaurant four stars, which I’m quickly editing down to two. Sometimes, I shock even myself. We revisited on a Monday night, originally pining for a pizza from Cuccagna in Sliema,. Cuccagna was closed. So we thought that for the same amount of money we could ‘get an Indian’.

There were just two people eating. The other human exemplars were the waiter, the owner (watching looping Indian music videos on the many TV screens) and the kitchen staff. In other words, there were as many people serving as there were dining, and we all had a television screen each. ‘How can they do it?’ I asked TW, worrying about their accounts.

We soon found out. For two very tiny portions of meat, one dish of (frozen) spinach with cottage cheese, two onion parathas, one beer and one small glass of diet Kinnie, we paid almost LM20, including an annoying cover charge of 70c each. We were (almost) forced to order a very small portion of rice – a twenty centimetre disk of basmati – because they asked us so many times, eventually telling us that ‘that is how Indian food is eaten’ that we had to include it.

I don’t remember the exact figures, but suffice to say that the parathas – a couple of flat breads with chopped onions sprinkled on them (not cooked in as per our previous visit) cost us LM3.60. Gasp! And that’s for 3c of flour and 2c of onion. The rice was almost LM3. The bill was so ridiculous that I actually asked them if there was something wrong with it. There wasn’t.

But there is something wrong with not having any redress in these situations. What am I supposed to do? Write to the Consumer Division and say that I feel I’ve been ripped off? Write to myself and publish my own letter? Talk to the FW and ask for a loan? Ridiculous.

That is why I’m always over the moon when I find somewhere that is decent. Where staff smile and make you feel welcome rather than look at you and think ‘Oh here’s another idiot for me to rip off”. The one unfortunate thing is that my latest discovery in Valletta is only open for lunch.

Bocconci is a franchise. The very idea makes me shiver, but here they make it a point to emphasise that they subscribe to the Slow Food Movement. I don’t know if this is truly correct since for me, slow food is a casserole and not a quick plate of pasta, but who am I to quibble?

Most of their food is, in fact, cold, or ready, or comes out of a jar packed in the Sele Valley in the south of Italy. But boy does it make you happy when it does. They have an extensive selection of cheeses and cured meats. So extensive in fact, that they put to shame all the ‘wine bars’ that make believe (to themselves and to us) that they offer ‘platters’.

The ricotta di bufala was sublime. Teamed with some good oil and fresh crusty bread (which they buy from somewhere in Attard), pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes dripping in juice and caciocavallo cheese, I already felt we were on to a good thing. In fact, as usual, I almost ate too much. If it wasn’t lunch, I would have liked to try their wines, of which they have an extensive selection of the Sicilian variety. Wine at midday makes me sleep so I didn’t. Sorry.

But we’d ordered pasta. Some trofie with cheese and tomato for me, and scialatielli with colatura di alici for The Writer. Since colatura is the liquid filtered from the anchovy salting process, TW realised he’d overdone his love for both seafood and salt. I gave him half of mine because I was full from all the bread I ate in the beginning. See how generous I am? I have to admit that the pasta was not exactly out of this world, but it was acceptable.

At Bocconci they have to be careful with some small things: first of all the cold counter doesn’t look too appetizing. They need to make it appear fuller because this indicates generosity. Then they need to ensure that they have a better selection of cakes. On the day we were there, the choice was extremely limited.

There was no torta ricotta e peri which I wanted, and no pastiera di grano which I didn’t but would have tried anyway (it’s a corn and cottage cheesecake with orange flowers). There wasn’t any delizia al limone either so we had a caprese di mandorle e cioccolato of which they had only one portion. Can you imagine? We were the first ones there on the day, so boo shucks to all those that came after us and had to go up the road to Cordina afterwards for their sugar fix.

The caprese was good, albeit a bit dry (I think it had hung around for a couple of days). It felt even better when I learnt that it was the mummy who makes it, using a Bocconci recipe. Olivia, who used to be in insurance (she was very good there too) is now in the kitchen. The brother is handling the front of house extremely well, and I suppose the dad is bankrolling them.

Ok, the last bit was just a small joke. But the rest is true: I love to see a family working together and coming up with a well-designed eatery in a stunning Valletta building, being nice to customers and generally giving them a jolly good time. The ‘feeling’ is why they get four stars and not three.

I guess all those owners who get angry when customers complain should take a look at what the guys and gals at Bocconci are doing. They haven’t reinvented the wheel: good service and good quality food do not need to be rethought, and neither does charging a decent amount. I despair to think that the simple things in life are often much more difficult to achieve than the complicated ones.

Additional Information

Location

Address 75-76 Republic Street
Town Valletta
Country Malta

Restaurant

Cuisine Italian

Contact Details

Website http://www.bocconci.com.mt
Contact Number 00356 21232505

Map

 

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