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Mekren or Maxokk? The 1 question we ask when debating the best Gozitan ftira!

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Deciding between Mekren or Maxokk's Gozitan ftira is a challenge! Our review of their Tuna and Anchovy options will leave you craving more.

It is the dilemma we have all faced when visiting Gozo. Where do we get our ‘Gozitan ftira’ from? Mekren or Maxokk? With Carnival 2020 weekend upon us, it won’t be only about what costume you wear and how original or funny it is.

Mekren or Maxokk? The tuna ftiras compared

No weekend ‘Tal-Karnival’ would be complete without having a freshly baked Gozitan ftira. Most of the time it is a clash between two stalwarts. Both Mekren Bakery and Maxokk Bakery are located in the village of Nadur, a few hundred meters away from each other.

The ‘ftira’ is a Maltese icon. Pizza is world famous. Combine the two together, and you get the Gozitan ftira. It closely resembles a pizza at first glance but its texture and taste are unique. Call us boring, but to me, the choice is always the one topped with tuna, anchovies, tomatoes, and sliced potatoes.

These ingredients are few and simple, but each of them is expected to do its job and work together with the rest. The crust is not tender. If you like your pizza (or in this case ftira) base to put a crackly resistance to each bite, this is the one for you. To think such a simple mixture of salt, flour, yeast, and water can result in something so magnificent.

Mekren or Maxokk? The two ftiras compared

Neither place is a sit-in location where you can eat your ftira, but the time spent in either of the bakeries for your pick-up is worth every minute. It’s not only about getting your ftira fresh from the oven. The smell of the dough and the sound of the cracking firewood are a treat in themselves.

Besides, we have always been fascinated by the speed at which they operate, with dishes flying in and out of the oven. These are no modern ovens shaped like an igloo, but the traditional ‘Forn tal-Hatab’ that have been in these bakeries for almost a century.

Take Maxokk Bakery for example. This is a small family-run bakery that has been around for 90 years (their site says so, not because we are 90 years old). Maxokk is the family’s nickname and the bakery started out by baking bread and daily meals (particularly their Sunday meals) as was common practice for the locals up to a few decades ago.

Mekren or Maxokk? Maxokk front

These days the bakery produces various types of ftiras and pizzas. There are the classics like the closed ftira stuffed with cheese, ricotta, and potatoes. They also have ftiras with local cheese (€7), sausage (€7.50) or cheese and pork (€7.50), or their ‘Our Favourite Ftira’ (€10) which includes everything you can think of – sausage, bacon, eggs, ham, mushrooms, potatoes and more.

It feels substantial just writing about it! There’s also a selection of pizzas including a ‘White Pizza’ (€7) with mozzarella, cheeselets, grated cheese, garlic, and herbs (or what I could call a ‘Tre Formaggi’). If you want to know the full story behind this iconic bakery, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with Bernadette Gatt, the daughter of the owner.

The same can be said for Mekren Bakery. Entering their bakery, you immediately feel as if it has been trapped in a time warp. I love the feeling, though the thing I love the most is that it was so easy to find, at the beginning of Triq il-Hanaq, on your way to Ramla Bay. Just like Maxokk, their menu features a variety of ftiras, such as the vegetarian (€5.50), tuna and anchovy (€6.50), beef (€7.50), or the Mekren special (€7.00), with potatoes, onions, cheeselets, Maltese sausages, and olives.

Mekren or Maxokk? Eating at Ramla Bay

There are also a number of pizza options like the margherita (€4.50) and capricciosa (€6.00) or chicken bacon (€7.00). You can also skip the ftiras (but we suggest you don’t) and get yourself a dish to take away, like baked half chicken (€9), lamb (€10), or rabbit (€26 but serving four people), all of which come with potatoes.

The ftira we bought from Maxokk Bakery was slightly smaller in size than that from Mekren. It was wholly covered in potatoes. The topping was a mix of tuna and tomato paste (kunserva), resembling the filling you normally find in the traditional Maltese ftira (but without capers). The dough was lighter and much crunchier on the outside parts, yet very doughy overall.

Mekren or Maxokk? Mekren front

The potatoes on top absorbed much of the heat, resulting in a rather dry top which gave the whole ftira an extra crunch, whilst leaving the filling between potatoes and crust rather moist. Overall the ftira was not that salty and was somewhat dry.

The ftira from Mekren Bakery was slightly bigger. The potatoes were placed at the bottom, meaning the ftira was less crunchy overall, but with more moisture and starch. The dough in this case was softer in texture, but still had enough crunchy on the sides.

There were capers included in this case, which we thought gave the ftira an edge in terms of saltiness. The use of fresh tomatoes on top was very enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing, however, it looks much more similar to the traditional pizza rather than the Gozitan ftira.

Mekren or Maxokk? Charlene with ftira

In both cases, these are Gozitan gems full of history and we like them that way. This is old-school cooking that has survived because of its quality. There are many bakeries on the islands that profess to sell the traditional Gozitan ftira.

However, it seems to me I’m always getting the real (better) thing when I get my ftira from Gozo, an island with such a rich culinary heritage. It’s like fish and chips from the UK, pizza from Naples, or frog legs from France. There’s no place like home.


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