The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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Marie Benoit': It isn’t all pizza: award-winning Italian food in Paceville

Marie Benoît Sunday, 9 October 2022, 09:33 Last update: about 3 years ago
Salvatore Pavone, his wife Agata and team are presented with the Diploma di Buona Cucina from Malta’s delegate Massimiliana Tomaselli
Salvatore Pavone, his wife Agata and team are presented with the Diploma di Buona Cucina from Malta’s delegate Massimiliana Tomaselli

The Accademia della Cucina Italiana has awarded Il Diploma di Buona Cucina 2022 to the Ristorante Sabbagata in Paceville. The energetic Massimiliana Tomaselli who is the Malta delegate for the Accademia presented this important award to Salvatore Pavone at a dinner at his restaurant recently. She said: "Sei una persona seria, dedicata e preparata e L'Italia ha bisogno di questo. Tu rappresenti la nostra cucina, la cucina mediterranea che ė patrimonio dell'Unesco."

This was a most pleasant evening as those who meet regularly at these dinners, in different Italian restaurants,  turned up to celebrate together, happy to do so after the long break because of Covid.

Camelo Pistorio and his wife Bing

The ever warm Massimiliana greeted us all with her usual affection. Her husband Mauro and herself have been living in Malta for many years. Let it be said that Massimiliana speaks and writes perfect English.

This time round this special dinner was baptised Ricominciano. Very apt under the circumstances.

Joe Grioli, Mariella Zarb and her Italian friend Antonella Gumarra

Massimiliana, a perfectionist,  always ensures that the table setting is beautiful, this time decorated with red long-stemmed roses. The evening's ritual started once she rang the special bell only used for these dinners.  Then a few words from her how Covid had drastically reduced the possibility of meeting, of enjoying a meal together, as usual.  "Covid has changed our habits and much more than that. This is the first dinner organised by the Accademia after a long period during which restaurants were closed.  But there is no better way of starting again. Even the weather has obliged by giving us some rain after the long and torrid summer," she told the gathering.

Dr Ramiro Cali Corleo,  who has an interesting family history,  was nominated vice-delegate for the Malta branch of the Accademia. As happens at every dinner the elegant and romantic young poet, Marino Egisto ta' Melita,  recited his latest poem, Meretrice di una mensa. A young Ukrainian violinist, Snizhana Lytiahina accompanied him on the violin, playing a beautiful and nostalgic Ukrainian piece. She was almost in tears.

Apart from Salvatore and his team the star of the evening was the menu. I have enjoyed Salvatore's cuisine over several years, from when he had come to Malta with his family and first opened L'Orso and then L'Altro L'Orso. For various reasons he had to change premises twice. Now, at last, Sabbagata, has grown in popularity and is well established.

 I am not going to give details of the six courses we so enjoyed. A special effort was made for members of the Accademia and we indulged in what can only be described as haute cuisine. The wines were a selection of Donna Fugata, always popular in Malta.

Marino reading his poem accompanied by the Ukrainian violinist 

Life's rich tapestry is often surprising. One of the members told me that he had spent four years in Mauritius. I was sitting next to Prof. Isabel Stabile whom I had met several times at other Accademia dinners. This time we had a chance to discuss a little. Prof. Stabile is a gynaecologist who has a high profile and known for being pro choice when it comes to abortion. We spoke knowing full well that it would be impossible for her to change her pro choice views  and equally impossible for me to persuade her to be anti abortion. Prof. Stabile's family are a family of doctors. She is a mother herself. It is difficult for me to understand how she can be pro choice. I like her. I am told she is a conscientious and dedicated gynaecologist.

That evening the couple opposite me introduced themselves,  Carmelo Pistorio whose wife is Bing,  of  Chinese origin. The surname struck a chord. It turned out that Carmelo is none other than the son of Pasquale who had negotiated with Perit Dom Mintoff, during difficult economic times, and brought to Malta SG which opened its doors in 1982 and immediately employed 400 employees, a huge number in a recession. Now the company employs some 1,500 people making it the largest private sector employer, as far as I know. What I suddenly recalled was meeting Carmelo's mother and father at the Xara Palace many mango seasons ago. I had gone to interview his mother, an artist from Venice. I enjoyed speaking to this couple with so much to say for themselves yet so low key.

Mille Foglie con crema pasticciera e frutti di bosco

Carmelo and Bing are practicing Catholics. He carries his rosary beads with him in his shirt pocket. He brought it out and showed it to me. A rare breed these days. Carmelo is working on a historical novel The Sicilian Dragon. Much research is involved which includes Malta. He hopes to find a publisher here. He sent me the synopsis. It sounds most promising.

I am indebted to Paola Stranges, an Italian journalist living in Malta and who edits an online blog, Malta Visite Guidate for some of the details and some of the photos I used here.  We spoke for a short while but were sitting on opposite side of the table that evening. I hope to learn more about her and her work next time round.

May the Accademia continue to thrive.


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