Mention the name Fausto and it will easily set off a foodie’s craving for a simple, authentic pasta carbonara that will instantly transport them to Rome.
Fausto Soldini popped into our lives in 2013, a Roman with a dream to open a typical trattoria in the heart of Valletta and a desire to share his grandmother’s treasured cucina casalinga recipes.
In his typically endearing way, Fausto says: “We speak poor English but we make good carbonara.” And he is true to his word.
Which is why those seeking a consistently good carbonara, know their senses will always lead them to Trattoria Romana Zero Sei, in Old Theatre Street.
Fausto’s energy and infectious enthusiasm are two elements which drive his passion in everything he does, and he goes to great lengths to source the best materia prima for his signature pasta dishes.
Tripping over his words as he excitedly speaks in three-quarters English and quarter of Italian, Fausto explains that the pecorino cheese comes all the way from the hills of the Tiber river under the label Deroma.
Here is the only artisanal cheese manufacturer that uses the old methods of four dry-salting procedures by hand to produce the delicate Pecorino Romano PDO from ewe’s milk, which is impossible to find in any supermarket.
Meanwhile, the guanciale is not just any dried pork cheek, but is sourced from Italy’s top producers — the Salumifico Sa.No in Accumoli, an ancient village in the heart of Amatrician territory — to ensure the carbonara you tuck into is the real thing.
At Zero Sei, the carbonara is served with rigatoni — spaghetti only on request — because the sauce, all yellowy from locally sourced eggs, goes through the pasta tubes to ensure you can enjoy the silky texture with every bite.
Over the past eight years, Fausto has adopted an ambassadorial role for Roman food, nudging us into understanding — with a cheeky smile — that no real carbonara should ever come with parsley, garlic, onions or cream.
During the first months of the pandemic, instead of the Great British Bake-Off, Fausto organised the Carbonara Challenge selling carbonara kits from the Prosciutteria in Gzira, and adding a dose of cheer and distraction to mundane days.
He has also become an online carbonara sensation with YouTube clips, viewed by thousands, to prove that anyone can make a wicked carbonara or sublime tiramisu to impress their family and friends as long as they have authentic ingredients.“
Coraggio, take the pot, put the water in and turn on the heat! I'll take you to Rome…” he encourages.
But the most authentic ingredient of the business is Fausto himself, who despite the bureaucratic obstacles he encountered, has persevered with a smile and buckets of charm to become a permanent fixture on the island he calls home.
Fausto describes himself as “a Roman DOC, who is in love with his adoptive islands, the surrounding sea, its people… and la buona cucina!”
"My family and I wanted to bring a little piece of Rome to Malta. The Maltese, like the Italians, come together around a table of food, to laugh, to argue and love… and we wanted to recreate that with every bite of our carbonara, amatriciana, gricia, or cacio e pepe,” he says.
Despite the lost business and challenges of the past 18 months, Fausto has tried to keep a brave face for his 45 employees and continued investing, ever the optimist that this too will pass.
Following the success of Sotto, in South Street, Valletta; Fausto has partnered with trusted friends who share his passion to open a new Sotto in Marsascala, with another one planned for St Julian’s in the coming days.
He is also looking to collaborate with the Mediterranean Culinary Academy as part of his untiring drive to spread the importance, as well as the joy of using and understanding high quality Roman ingredients.
With his winning smile his message, like his carbonara, is a simple one: “The main ingredient is up to you… It’s called love.”