On Sunday mornings people flock to Rabat for a taste of anchovy zeppoli – an age old traditional savory which consists of fried bread dough filled with anchovy.
The anchovy zeppoli or sfineġ, as they are known in Maltese, first started being prepared in Rabat more than half a century ago. It is a food item which was always very popular, especially during Lent – when abstinence of meat was strictly observed. Most Catholic households in Rabat would consume the fritters on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Nowadays the anchovy sfineġ are available for sale from a small number of food outlets in Malta, but for Pawlu Sapiano, a senior citizen from Rabat and a veteran sfineġ maker, they are a life dedication.
Mr Sapiano has been frying the fritters for the past 40 years, following a recipe which was passed on to him by his parents. “I was only two years old when my parents started frying the sfineġ. I know how to cook them blindfoldedly.”
Gianni Pace, 30, who runs the place or the ‘bottegin’ as it was called in olden days, expressed his wish that the band club culture in Malta gets the revival it deserves: “In band clubs, you get people of all generations – from children to senior citizens - sharing their life experiences and passing on their traditions and culture. It makes for a more fulfilling and wiser society.”
Perhaps the lure of the sfineġ might be an attraction. Certainly, however much we try them at home, we will never get the scrumptious taste of Mr Sapiano’s sfineġ. His recipe has that secret ingredient which he wouldn’t reveal: “That’s top secret,” he laughs.