For those hailing from Mosta and its surroundings, a trip to the beaches in the north during the summer months simply isn’t complete without a stop-over at Xufi, or Olympic Bar, for a ftira first.

Apart from their famous hobz biz-zejt, the café and bistro boasts a full menu of authentic dishes which means it’s rarely not teeming with people, regardless of the time of day.

Chris is in charge of the kitchen, while Alvin, Frankie and Charlene take care of the front of house, and whoever of them you run into on your visit, they’re always zooming around to keep up with demand.

“Today, pasta dishes are among our most popular, apart from hobz biz-zejt – that’s really how we started out,” says Chris.

The menu was a lot simpler in the restaurant’s earlier days, he explains, revealing that it mainly consisted of pastizzi, qassatat, imqarrun il-forn and a simpler version of the hobza biz-zejt.

Classic hobz biz-zejt being prepared at XUFI (Olympic) Café and Bistro / Photo by Inigo Taylor

“We’d also make a lot of tea, as our clients were mostly workmen, fishermen and hunters,” he says, recalling how when he was a boy, Xufi was always full of people in the early hours of the morning, before they’d head out to hunt or fish. Nowadays, with a vaster clientele and wide-ranging tastes, the menu has grown to accommodate them – and the opening hours have become somewhat kinder!

“Throughout the week, our pasta dishes, salads and breads are more popular, whilst at the weekend we serve an à la carte menu, which also features meat and fish. Sunday lunch is particularly busy among families, some of whom come every Sunday!”

A local favourite: stuffed marrows at XUFI (Olympic) Café and Bistro / Photo by Inigo Taylor

In fact, it’s Xufi’s consistency, and the fact that you know what you’re going to get, that keeps people returning, according to Chris. “People come to us confidently, knowing that they will eat well,” he smiles, and the family’s passion for their work is immediately evident.

“We’ve spent our lives here, and the business is important to us – it’s a lot more than just our livelihood. As soon as each of us finished school, we joined the family business – it’s really the only thing we know! As we move forward, it’s a balance between keeping to our roots and traditions, and developing and evolving with the times, whilst keeping the consistency that people have come to know and love.”

This is the first part in a four-part series on local traditional eateries, originally featured in Business Now Winter 2022/2023, the sister brand to BusinessNow.mt

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