Portelli, a Love Story for Sweets
If we can taste the beautiful Gozitan sweets in their authentic recipes and still oven baked in a 150 years old stove, well we need to say thanks to Maria and Tarcisio.
All sweet things start with a flame of love, the one that young Tarcisio felt when he met Maria while working at her father’s bakery, in the heart of Victoria, more than 60 years ago!
The shop was called the “Royal Confectionery” (picture on your right) and already boosted a great reputation among the locals as Maria’s father was the heir of a family of bakers.
As you can see in the old picture below, dating 1937, Maria’s father, Mr Guzeppi Bezzina, (on your right) is showing to the crowd during the Santa Marija Feast the many medals won, holding on his hand the winner of the latest competition, the nougat, his speciality.
Guzeppi didn’t have a weakness only for nougat and sweets but also for his daughters. As Maria told me, her father wrote on his will that his daughters couldn’t get marry, as he wanted them close to him when eventually he would aged.
So the love between Maria and Tarcisio had to resist more than the butter that Tarcisio used to melt for his biscuits! Infact, it was only after Guzeppi died that the young couple could get married and live happily ever after!
In the Portelli family they like to say with a smile that “Tarcisio stole Grandad’s daughter and his tray”!
Here I am with Maria and with her eldest daughter Josephine (known in Victoria as “Guza”, here on holiday from New York) and Michael, one of the twins, the youngest of the Portelli family.
Where is Tarcisio?
Baking, of course!
At the great age of 80 years old, Tarcisio is still baking with his serene smile who makes you feel happy even before you have tasted his sweets!
He is still the boss of the confectionery! No cakes is brought out the bakery doors before Tarcisio gives his approval.
What makes the Portelli Confectionery so loved in Gozo as well as in Malta?
(Not just on the islands but even abroad! Apparenty the crunchy “crustini” – featuring in the picture below on your right – arrived to the Queen’s tea time table, brought there by a client on holiday in Gozo. Even the Queen must have noticed while dipping the crustini in the tea how they are crisp from outside and soft from inside and their ability to hold the tea until they melt in your mouth in full flavour… Try by yourself to believe!)
I believe that what makes the Confectionery Portelli a guarantee of goodness is a mix of special ingredients:
– Genuine products
– Traditional Gozitan recipies made seasonally, so for example people have to wait for Carnival to taste the famous Portelli’s prinjolata.
– Passion and Love!
This is what Michael and George, the Portelli twins, revealed me. They grew up helping the family and this job pulled them in since they were kids and then teenagers. However, they never thought to go away from it. They just felt in love with baking!
A cake for the Colonel
Cannoli, biscottini tal gharusa or tal rahal, bambaluni, crustini, coloured fingers…
Have you ever heard about these?
These are the sweets that were made in old times for weddings and parties, “hundreds of those”, says Guza.
Maria also told me the story of the cake and the Colonel. During the Second World War, Maria’s father had to build a fake wall in their house (that was also the old bakery), to hide flour and sugar. In that way they could still bake some sweets to give to the people. Even in those tough times, this family carried their mission to “make people’s life taste better“, not caring to loose their life!
Malta and Gozo were starving as no food provisions were coming and one day a British Colonel asked Maria’s father to make a cake for him, with the promise to not tell to anyone. He did and eventually he almost had a stroke when he saw the Colonel showing up in Savina Square with the beautiful cake!
However, to reward him for the cake, the Colonel gave him a truck full of goods that he generously shared with all his neighboors.
Where is located the Portelli Shop?
The Portelli Shop is in Savina Square and offers since almost 60 years sweets, cakes, candies, tobacco and news papers but more than everything a bit of happiness and kindness as these are the main virtues of any member of the Portelli family!
The Portelli Shop is open from Monday to Sunday from 8.30am to 1.15pm and then from 6.00pm to 9.00pm.
I was curious to know which are their favourite sweets.
Well, while Tarcisio favourites are the biscottini, for Maria are the cannoli; instead Guza’s favourites are the coloured fingers, Franky loves any dried cookies, while for Miriam they told me that “there isn’t one she doesn’t like” (how to blame her). How about the twins? George loves cream cakes and Michael too (but with chocolate too).
And yours? Which is your favourite one?
Let us know 😉
You can post a picture in the Facebook Group, Gozo Tourist Group, click here
For the Portelli Confectionery Facebook Page, click here
To visit the Portelli bakery, it is in Archpriest Saver Cassar Street, Victoria, very close to the shop. If you would love to know more about the story of the Archpriest Cassar and his important role during the French invasion in Gozo, click here
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