Prego has always looked dark from the outside. In summer, you blink as you slow-coach down South Street and vaguely make out a shadow or two. In winter, it’s no more inviting.
And yet, if you propel yourself inside, you really find yourself in an icon of Maltese cafe life. Prego was opened in 1947 by Salvatore Bezzina, and is still run by his sons, Giorgio and Sunny, their cousin Carmelo Spiteri and another guy called Joe Borg.
I took my first girlfriend to Prego for our first cappuccino. And the place doesn’t look any different now – apparently the last time any refurbishment happened it was 1965. The Gaggia machine is still proud and shining over the counter. The waiters, I swear, are the same guys, still wearing the same open white shirts and red v-neck sweaters. Same red rexine chairs in need of upholstering. You drink coffee in cups like your granny used to have. You can have a baguette, as long as it’s ham and cheese and mayonnaise. The glass display now includes an incongrous variety of pies and pastizzi.
None of this matters. Prego survives as a throwback to old, fading Valletta. People-watch what’s going on outside. Or tune into a conversation between the odd lawyer and civil servant. Become a football expert, admire the odd hem-line, cover yourself with pastizzi flakes and brush them off the fluffy benches lining the walls.
Prego is a must for the first-time visitor to Valletta. And to the old Valletta regular who wants to remember a youth long forgotten.
Photo: Alex Grech