When Mafalda Tavola Calda opened its welcoming doors at 7 rue des Etuves, between Manor and Bel Air on the city’s West Bank, a refreshing breeze of Mediterranean warmth and hospitality as well as the delicious scents of Southern Italian specialities epitomizing the best of Sicilian home cooking blew through Geneva.
From its conical-shaped arancini to its deep and delicious coffee from Bannafranca, a city in the Sicilian province of Enna, as well as everything in between — handmade pizza, grilled vegetables, cured meats, delicate biscuits, scented pastries and creamy ricotta-based cheesecake, everything about Mafalda is authentically Sicilian, which is why its a favorite haunt of in-the-know Italian customers and a growing number of Swiss (and expat) ones, too.
Fast food in service terms only
Although Mafalda labels itself a ‘fast food’ restaurant (arancini are a favourite takeout item in Calabria) that description speaks more of the courteous haste with which food is served as opposed to its obvious quality and the care with which it is prepared.
Mafalda has been a labor of love as well as no small amount of moxie from the very beginning when its proprietor, Fabrizio Aiello — Geneva-born but Sicilian-raised — and his wife Stella and their four children left their successful business ventures in Bannafranca on an informed, well researched hunch that the Swiss would appreciate typical Sicilian “fast food” as much as the locals back home do.
Mafalda is a family affair
Nine months have past since Mafalda opened its doors and clearly there’s no looking back for the family who also staff the business, including mother Stella on cash and son Damiano at the pizza oven, as well as sons Eugenio and Fabrizio junior and a daughter, little Stella, playing their parts. Pastry chef Jose Arcifa brings his baking skills with him direct from Catania.
Athough there is just enough room for up to 15 diners at the café’s three tables on the second level, clearly the establishment thrives on its lunchtime take-out service when a lineup is usually to be seen down the entire length of the counter.
The name “Mafalda” denotes a traditional Sicilian bread created in honor of a princess of the same name and which is used at the café for its sandwiches.
In addition to super-stuffed sandwiches (from CHF 12.-) and pizza à la calabraise (CHF 15.- or CHF 20.-) the café offers two oven-baked pasta dishes, for example, lasagne with vegetables or with ragu (for CHF 12.-).
Summertime brings refreshing drinks, iced cappucino and a heavenly selection of gelati.
Whether you choose to stay in for a bite or take out to enjoy later, you and your taste buds will feel like you’ve escaped on a mini-break to the Mediterranean.
Mafalda Tavola Calda
7 Rue des Etuves
Tel. 076 713 00 77 / 076 277 29 15
Open 7am through 7pm, Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday.