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A Taste of Home in Mexico

A taste of home in Mexico

Some doors down from Frida Kahlo’s infamous Blue House, in the heart of Mexico City’s leafy Coyoacan district, sits an unassuming bakery like many others.

I’m serving up more than just food. I’m serving people my heritage and childhood memories

But a cursory glance at La Santa Gula’s menu throws up a few surprises for this is Mexico’s first Maltese café, with timpana, qassatat and locally-baked ftajjar, all selling like the proverbial pastizzi.

Situated at 168, Calle Xicotecatl, Coyoacan, Mexico City, the bakery was the culmination of a dream that stretched back decades, owner Mark Mercieca said.

“This was a 30-year pipedream,” he chuckled. “As a kid, I used to tell my mother, Pat, that her profiteroles would make her famous one day. She used to just laugh but here we are today!”

La Santa Gula’s recipes are all his mother’s doing and Mrs Mercieca even spent a month in Mexico with her son perfecting her creations.

“She was very excited about it all. I don’t think she thought it would ever happen... and to see people walking in and tucking into your recipes must feel fantastic,” he said.

Maltese-born and bred, Mr Mercieca moved to Mexico almost 15 years ago as an adventurous 22-year-old smitten by the country’s vigour, colours and, of course, a local girl.

He opened a real estate business on Isla Mujeres, Cancun’s more laid-back sister town but decided to move to Mexico City 18 months ago to give his culinary dream a shot.

“I wanted something typically Maltese without going too overboard, something Mexican people could relate to. So we do ross il-forn, timpana, kapunata, ħobż biż-żejt... stuff that makes me proud of my heritage.”

The results so far were “fantastic,” he said. “We’ve been open for less than four months but we’re doing extremely well. We’ve got a number of regular clients and the Christmas period is shaping up nicely.”

An already bright café was lent an extra dash of colour by a series of posters on the walls. Dwejra, Mdina and the Blue Lagoon all feature. “My mother contacted the Malta Tourism Authority, who kindly provided the posters,” Mr Mercieca explained.

“Plenty of people here have never heard of Malta. The only Maltese they’ve heard of is the Maltese terrier,” he joked, “so I thought of giving them some visual aids. I feel like a culinary ambassador!

“I’m serving up more than just food. I’m serving people my heritage and childhood memories. These recipes and their origin are my essence.”

His next mission is to master pastizzi. “They’re an art in themselves; it takes a lot of practice if you’re to get them right. That’s why I started with the qassatat,” he said, laughter punctuating his sentences.

A Maltese friend of his living in Mexico has already visited La Santa Gula but Mr Mercieca is still waiting for his first unexpected Maltese client.

“It’ll be fantastic when that happens,” he concedes, “but there aren’t all that many Maltese knocking around these parts!”

Published Monday, January 2, 2012 3:11 PM by Zinnia Q.


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