sħan u tajbin,
tliet soldi ‘l wieħed,
Hidden in a quiet street in Żejtun, lies a culinary gem which holds one of Malta’s most popular food traditions. Indeed, Roger’s Bakery is famous for its cheesecakes prepared with that unique thin crispy pastry and classic filling. People from all corners of the island flock to the southern village for a bite or two of ‘il-pastizzi ta’ Roger’. The outlet is now run by Roger’s son, Henry Demanuele, who continues to tease the taste buds of locals and foreigners with cheesecakes, which many believe to be the best on island. We met up with Henry to discuss his family’s longstanding tradition of pastizzi making, on how the profession has changed over the years, and the misconception of pastizzi being associated with junk food.
What are the origins of Roger’s Bakery?
My parents lived in Rabat, the place where my father worked as a baker, yet in 1968, they relocated to Żejtun. Whilst moving south, my father was on the look-out for a
bakery. He was lucky to come across an outlet in Żejtun, which quickly earned a reputation among locals as one of the best producers of traditional Maltese pastizzi. My interest in the production of pastizzi came quite natural, since from a very young age I used to help my father until the time was right for me to take over.
What pride does this profession offer?
It gives me a strong sense of satisfaction to see people appreciate the taste of a good cheesecake. Unfortunately, locals often take for granted the work, the story, and the
taste in every cheesecake. It is part of our culinary culture, and we should give the product more respect. Moreover, I am pleased to have recently developed cheesecakes which may be in a way, coined as ‘healthy’.
In what way has the recipe of cheesecakes changed over the years?
The method remains the same, yet the ingredients have changed significantly. The dough is no longer made with fat, but rather with a healthier option, vegetable
Unfortunately there are many people who are afraid to eat cheesecakes because of the high volume of calories.
Do you feel cheesecakes should be considered as junk food?
I do not feel cheesecakes should be considered as junk food. We generally focus on the negative side of the product and often miss out on its benefits, including the fact they do not contain any additives to extend their shelf life, and that they are oven cooked. Moreover, there are misconceptions on the quantity of calories they contain. The figures often mentioned are not correct, exaggerated, and misleading.
How many cheesecakes do you produce on a weekly basis?
I would say, thousands. Only big volumes guarantee a stable income.
Do you feel this profession is in danger of extinction?
This industry is struggling like other similar sectors. The young generation prefers to opt for professions which guarantee a higher income and less working hours. This industry requires many sacrifices, long hours and a lower return.
Did you ever consider the possibility of introducing new flavours?
I kept loyal to the traditional flavours, the demand for ricotta and pea cakes is still very strong. Introducing new flavours is highly risky and time-consuming. We only change flavour on Good Friday, when we use anchovies instead of corned beef.
Is there any interest from your daughter to take over the business?
I am currently teaching my daughter the tricks of the trade. She is showing keen interest to follow in my footsteps and actively supports me in the business. Hopefully, she will take over the business in the coming years.
© 2019 – VIDA Magazine