Where Passion Meets Innovation: Interview with La Buona Cucina

Food is the cornerstone of our existence, part of what acts as fuel for our biological mechanisms and mental capacities. It also serves to bring us together as social beings, bridging gaps between individuals and allowing different people to share specific moments, special occasions and explore locations far and wide. It enhances events where we celebrate each other, or simply provides us with an excuse to make contact and bond. 

Providers of food are, therefore, responsible for fashioning a background against which all of this is experienced. They are also, however, imbued with another duty; that of delivering fresh, quality products to the consumer. Aside from this, there is the all-important notion of health. Are the meals being proposed made of natural, high-standard ingredients? Are they conducive to a balanced consumption of the various nutrients and properties of the ingredients used? Customers today might well ask such questions. Showing concern about the health aspect of our food is a natural consequence of a desire to lead a generally positive life. Is it, however, easy to calibrate this notion with that of flavour maximisation? The creator behind the new, exciting brand offering an irresistible union of the two – La Buona Cucina – feels that, while not exactly simple, it is possible, with the right kind of approach and level of research. 

The miracle ġbejna, in one of its more unusual, sweet guises.

La Buona Cucina was, in fact, born out of the desire to make food enjoyable for people with limited dining options. The brand presents a host of intriguing snacks for the menu selection-challenged – consumers such as coeliacs, people who suffer from the more common intolerances and vegans. Examples of the more unusual items available for ordering include sweet versions of the so-called “Miracle Ġbejna”, the vegan, gluten- and lactose-free-friendly innovation on this classic local cheese, as well as the moreish ravioli, able to be consumed by people suffering from various food issues, such as problems digesting gluten and lactose. La Buona Cucina’s Managing Director, also known as the brains behind the entire operation, explains to me how the idea first occurred to him. Having been to dinner on more than a few occasions with friends who were either fully vegan or suffered from some sort of food intolerance, he clearly recalls the frustration and dismay inherent in their experiences at local establishments, on two different counts. Firstly, in terms of culinary satisfaction, there was the lack of choice available to his dining companions. Secondly, the issue of cross-contamination was of concern to them; even if they had been offered a separate option, how sure could they be that the ingredients used hadn’t come into contact with other, harmful ones? It was in the aftermath of occasions such as these that inspiration struck. La Buona Cucina was, therefore, born of the determination to remedy this unfortunate set of circumstances, and provide different sorts of consumers with both safe and palatable dishes. Its creator set about inviting the affected diners to his own residence in order to cook dishes which could be enjoyed by individuals suffering from different intolerances, including those to gluten or lactose. He confides that he felt a sense of responsibility in terms of creating food which could be suited to their particular circumstances, without compromising its flavour. 

One of his first challenges lay in the production of tasty pasta that could be consumed by coeliacs. Being something of a foodie, and hailing from the land which can lay claim to rendering this wheat- and egg- laden delicacy an institution, the impetus to craft something delicious and different in this sense was strong indeed. To this end, he began to experiment with natural flours. The first few attempts brought him to the realisation that, if he was truly going to offer patrons wholesome food that catered for their intolerances, his approach would have to be an artisanal one. One thing led to another, and his attempts to utilise different natural flours in a creative way led him to ponder whether he could find alternatives for people with other diet-based restrictions – for instance,  coming up with delicious cakes without the use of eggs. Here he stresses that, while La Buona Cucina’s products cannot, strictly speaking, be termed as gluten-free, consumers can order them safe in the knowledge that cross-contamination with wheat products has been avoided in their creation. 

Possibly my favourite La Buona Cucina product – the delectable ravioli, suitable for gluten- and lactose- intolerant consumers.

The La Buona Cucina creator goes on to painstakingly outline the philosophy behind the company’s brand. What fuels him the most, he reveals, is the challenge of making tasty food for people who are more restricted in their dietary choices than your average consumer. The notion that keeps the cook driven is the idea that the food needs to be appetising to everyone, especially clients who are not afforded the same broad selection of food as omnivores. The brand’s maxim also hinges on its core identity, reflected by its very name – in Italian, the word “buono/a” connected to food does not simply refer to dishes or snacks boasting a delicious flavour, but to something that is well made, with good, natural ingredients – in other words, genuine fare. Regardless of the subjective view relating to the taste, this is what it stands for – something that has been crafted with love, out of good-quality, fine ingredients. 

Ultimately, the brand purports to provide its customers with diverse, rather than alternative products. A case in point is La Buona Cucina’s own version of the ġbejna in its different permutations. Long considered to be a staple snack as well as an ingredient in traditional Maltese dishes, the company has come up with an option for the ġbejna that is wholly suitable for lactose-intolerant people to consume. Once again, the point is made that the brand’s objective is for customers across the dietary spectrum, in particular those with nutritional limitations, to enjoy a tasty treat in the form of, for instance, wheat-less ravioli that have been created using a meticulous process. This method differs from others used to make regular pasta, the managing director explains, by eliminating the use of ingredients found in the standard product. He emphasises the extent of experimentation that has gone into this task, as it is hardly easy to approximate the texture of a product containing gluten and lactose without detracting from its flavour.

The question on everybody’s lips at this stage no doubt involves the company’s next challenge. The Managing Director smiles mischievously, and replies, rather mysteriously, that this will involve the fashioning of a sweet-tasting cake without the use of a single grain of sugar. As a convert to La Buona Cucina’s philosophy, I can hardly wait to sample the result! 😊

Sssh! Don’t tell anyone – it’s La Buona Cucina’s fabulous new sugar-free, sweet-tasting date cake.

For more information, take a look at La Buona Cucina’s website and Facebook page:-

https://labuonacucina.mt/

https://www.facebook.com/La-Buona-Cucina-157995975969941

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