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FoodBlog Review: Cuccagna, Sliema. A childhood favourite ❤️

FoodBlog Review: Cuccagna, Sliema. A childhood favourite ❤️

A visit to Cuccagna always meant one thing for me. Pizza. Cuccagna was my childhood pizza joint, we’d give them a quick call, place our order and walk through the little alley opposite the restaurant, to pick up a cardboard box whose contents made every Friday night heaps better. The order was always the same; the Cuccagna, with Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano and life was good. Fast forward some 20 years and you’re left with a connection created with a very special ingredient: nostalgia. 

The authentic Italian trattoria entrance of Cuccagna in Amery Street, Sliema

The doorway to a feast of pizza, pasta and other Italian classics.

Located on Amery Street, a few steps away from the Sliema Promenade, Cuccagna is a family-run restaurant with years of dedication, focus and pure passion poured into every pot of tomato sauce that graces their crisp pizza doughs. And there’s something special about family-run businesses that we tend to forget, or maybe even miss altogether… the effort put into everything within the restaurant is done with love, and the food at Cuccagna very much proves that. The flavours are simple yet accurate, and while the entire menu is still to be explored; the 3 dishes we tried during our visit were all worthy of recommendation.

Our Cuccagna meal began

Our order, as suggested by Floor Manager Carla, featured the Veal Cotoletta Milanese, the House Special pizza and the Fettuccine with Pesto di Trapani. The menu is packed with options, from salads to pasta, pizza to mains and of course a list of hot and cold starters to get you going. Now whenever I see an overly extensive menu, as a diner, I feel extremely pressured into making the right choice - while Cuccagna’s menu is broad; their selection is quite focused all the same. In other words, there’s no odd Asian dish on the menu; it’s a purely Italian inspired trattoria - decor included.

Chef Charlene Cesare has quite the challenge cut out for her, but she’s definitely used to high pressure in a kitchen - her experience in Gordon Ramsay’s Maze in London must have seen her fighting her way out of the weeds a couple of times. Our evaluation of her culinary art was seen in the feast that we powered through during our visit. 🤩

Crispy veal Milanese overdrive

We started with the Veal Cotoletta Milanese that presented a thin cutlet of breaded veal, golden brown as it should be. This was served on a bed of rocket leaves, an all-important wedge of lemon and thin-cut fries on the side - crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with the right amount of salt to season. The star on the dish, the veal cutlet, wowed with its crispy, salted breading that balanced out the neutral flavour and texture of the meat. 

Veal Cotoletta Milanese from La Cuccagna in Amery Street, Sliema

Veal Cotoletta Milanese - give this crispy cutlet a squeeze of lemon and you're good to go.

Combine that with peppery local rocket leaves, a couple of Parmigiano shavings and a light squeeze of lemon and you’ve got yourself the perfect mouthful. The lemon might seem like a ‘useless’ garnish, but the level of acidity it brings to the dish balances everything out perfectly. It brightened up the veal cutlet without destroying the breading’s crisp texture. This Milan classic goes for €21.95 - a little bit on the steep side.

Thinly sliced to perfection

We moved on to the House Special pizza where a thin crust topped with delicate ingredients gave us an Instagram worthy shot, straight out the oven. The worst part of a FoodBlog Malta review is waiting till all food shots are taken; such an important part of our review process, but bordering inhumane. After the seemingly long photoshoot, eager hands leaned in to snatch a slice and it was all worth the wait. 

We all know how the perfect slice should perform when it’s removed from its pizza plate… the expected stretch of cheese hanging off the thin, lightly browned crust, yet still-intact-base - carrying a touch of all the ingredients for the first sample bite. The first bite here was buttery - this was definitely due to the hint of bufala mozzarella. 

The house special pizza from La Cuccagna in Amery Street, Sliema

To my surprise, the balsamic reduction really accented the peppery elements in the rocket. Nice one.

What makes a Parma Ham pizza great, in my opinion, is thinly sliced produce, both the Prosciutto Crudo itself and the Parmigiano Reggiano - this one did it for me. The thin Parma Ham carried the right amount of salt, as did the hard cheese shavings - and the clever addition of chopped tomatoes added that slight sweetness, juxtaposed with the fresh rocket balanced it all out. 🧀

This thin-crust pizza with supreme ingredients came with a drizzle of balsamic glaze - generally an absolute turn off for me. But, and I say this with great humility, the tartness and zing held the pizza together; umami-wise that is. These slices of heaven were, needless to say, devoured for a very fair price of €14.50. 

Pesto with a twist

The last contender in our 3-dish review was a pasta dish with Pesto di Trapani - not to be confused with the more commonly known Pesto Genovese. Pesto di Trapani is the creamier, more docile cousin of the local favourite Pesto Genovese; with an almond paste to add smoothness and slightly sweet chopped tomatoes to build the contrast. 

Fettucine with pesto di trapani from La Cuccagna in Amery Street, Sliema

Every strand of pasta was covered in a creamy cashew and basil sauce; proper food here.

This luscious pesto wrapped itself effortlessly around the al dente fettuccine. Every fork-full carried just the right amount of sauce that was thinned and richened with Chef Cesare’s touch of cream. Finish the Fettuccine with Pesto di Trapani with a crown of parmesan shavings and for €12.50… hey pesto… a good plate of pasta.

Cuccagna's sweetest surprise

Our meal was intended to stop right there, after the 3rd main course - but when Carla offered us a homemade dessert, our foodie determination struck… there was no way we, or anyone for that matter, could leave Cuccagna without trying the Chocolate Brownie. This was the sweetest end to the meal - words can never describe the insaneness of this dessert. 

The chocolate brownie from La Cuccagna in Amery Street, Sliema

There are no more words to describe this one... please, just try it! 🤤

Cuccagna is the sort of restaurant you’d find the more experienced foodies in, and by more experienced, we mean Gen X. And it’s not because it’s not an excellent spot for young foodies, quite the contrary, get those bookings in… this gem is necessary on your local food bucket list.

Let’s be honest, this ain’t no 2020 restaurant with the interior serving crazy designs; it’s got a very traditional trattoria-come-Maltese style vibe going on - and that’s OK; because the food transports you to your very own food-cocoon - and that’s a good place to be. A return visit to Cuccagna is definitely on the agenda; possibly for a Hump Day pick-me-up.

My next visit will surely include the Spaghetti Carbonara, the Chicken Saltimbocca and the Mista pizza, possibly on their new Keto Pizza base. 🍕

After reading this would you visit Cuccagna?

FoodBlog Mission Statement: The above opinions are based on the reviewer’s particular personal experience during the restaurant visit. FoodBlog’s primary aim is to give restaurant owners and chefs an insider-view to their clientele's experience; highlighting their strongest suits and applauding all floor and kitchen staff for a job well done while making them aware of the personal improvements we feel would elevate their restaurant. FoodBlog critiques are intended to improve the Food and Beverage experience for diners and to encourage excellence in culinary and hospitality professionals.

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