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Gozitan ftira heaven? Maxokk Bakery and its remarkable story (Part 2)

PART 2 | We interview Bernadette Gatt, daughter of the owner of Maxokk Bakery. She tells us about the bakery, its story, and future plans.


It is hard to deny the love that people on the Maltese islands have for Maxokk Bakery and their Gozitan ftira. Why would we want to anyway? Even people visiting our islands get to know about Maxokk Bakery, either through research or locals.


As we have seen in our previous article, Maxokk Bakery has a long history behind it. This Nadur bakery was established in the early 1930s by Pawlu and Marija Attard, getting it’s name from Pawlu’s nickname ‘Ta’ Maxokk’. The bakery has kept its name and reputation throughout the years. Originally Maxokk Bakery also sold bread, however with the passing away of Pawlu the family decided to concentrate on the Gozitan ftira to cater for the demand.


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After years of dedication from Marija and Pawlu Attard, the role was handed to their daughter, Grace. Grace, one of Marija and Pawlu’s 12 children, was the only one to stay in Gozo and would actively help in the bakery before her parent’s retirement, thus making her the obvious choice. Nowadays, Grace receives a lot of help from her two children; Bernadette Gatt and Chris Farrugia.


Bernadette admitted sometimes it is a challenge to cater for the demand, especially during lunchtime. A large number of orders can mean queues outside the bakery, sometimes for a prolonged period, and at times in the heat, often leading Bernardette and others to offer a glass of wine for customers to enjoy whilst waiting. A wood-fired oven is not easy to control though, and cooking times may vary as a result.


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When asked about her favourite type of Gozitan ftira, it was hard for Bernadette to decide. Customers seem to order a variety of types from the Maxokk menu, and tastes vary. We pushed her a little bit about this and after admitting that the Tuna ftira was always a favourite, if she really, really had to choose, she would go for the Maltese sausage (bought from Gozo) and the bacon and egg ftira.


A lot of new variations were added which had never been used before, such as a ftira with bacon, or the typical Italian-style pizza, which has a different dough to the Gozitan ftira. Maxokk Bakery’s menu now even includes a Gozitan ftira called ‘Il-Favourite’, a popular choice with meat lovers. It has bacon, Maltese sausage, pork, ham, garlic, onions, green peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms.


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Special attention is given to this Gozitan ftira since cooking in a stone oven fired with wood is very different from cooking in an electric oven at home. Given the weight of the ftira toppings and the liquid which comes out of many ingredients, they must ensure that it is cooked evenly. It is the most expensive ftira and yet, so popular with Maxokk Bakery’s customers.


Bernadette emphasized that authenticity comes from the ftira dough. The modern person still appreciates the traditional method in which the dough is prepared. It differs from the modern style pizza bread or ftira. They always use an oven with wood and they never use anything else. This gives their Gozitan ftira that traditional taste we all love.


In pre-covid times, Maxokk Bakery participated in many food festivals. During one particular food festival, celebrity chef Ainsley Harriot (you might know him from the popular TV show Ready, Steady, Cook) was present, who Bernardette described as a very bubbly and charming person, just like his TV persona.


Harriott was tasked with selecting his favourite food stall from the festival. With great fondness, Bernadette told us that Harriott chose the Maxokk Bakery stall after he loved the Maxokk Gozitan ftira.


This was pre-COVID-19 of course. The pandemic slightly affected business in the beginning because everyone was confused about the virus and nobody was prepared for it. The locals were scared. However, the business operates on a takeaway approach, minimising any risk of infection. Bernardette admitted that business was soon back to normal and Maxokk Bakery was overwhelmed with orders as had previously been the norm.


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What does the future hold for Maxokk Bakery? When we asked Bernadette about expanding the business, she told us a lot of consideration goes into such a decision. Apart from herself being a teacher, Bernadette has a husband and two young children to factor into the equation.


Expanding the family business would inevitably mean choosing between her career and the business. Having both as priorities in her life, whilst also looking after her family is not possible. Being a teacher gives her a lot of satisfaction; however, she has grown up in the bakery business, knows it well and loves it. It is a tough decision.


There has been a lot of interest to resell Maxokk Bakery’s Gozitan ftira from different restaurants in Malta and Gozo. For Bernardette, the main factor against this would be quality, and as a result reputation.


Maxokk prides itself in using a stone oven fired with wood. Allowing establishments to take an uncooked ftira from Maxokk and having them cook the ftira in their own ovens may compromise the taste significantly. Unfortunately, for this reason, they had to reject such offers. Any plans for the selling of a frozen Gozitan ftira, for now, remain on the shelves.


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One of the family's wishes is that the tradition is carried forward by Bernardette’s two young children. She often brings them with her to the bakery so that they can understand the business and hopefully grow up loving it just as much as she does. Maxokk Bakery has always been a family business.


At the moment it is Bernadette, her mother and her brother. Sometimes they also get help from Bernadette’s aunt and perhaps even from a friend. If the children were to continue the Maxokk when they are older, they can keep it truly as a family business.


What is your favourite ftira? Would you like to see any new version? Tell us in the comments section!

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