We all love a bit of fine dining, innovative culinary solutions and contemporary fusion dishes – but, let’s be honest, none of these can really compare to a nice homely cooked dinner. Nothing warms our hearts and stomachs quite like a family dinner. Think of your grandma’s special signature soup or dessert, or your mum’s favorite stew – the stuff of dreams and memories. This is why restaurants like La Famiglia have us returning again and again. The place has a hospitably warm vibe and, under the guidance of Chef Florita Alves, the food is even more homely, with Macanese food cooked so well it feels like you’re receiving a gastronomic hug. La Famiglia is the perfect home from home – traditional family cooking packaged in a restaurant form.
Chef Florita Alves is the genius behind the culinary magic that La Familia has to offer. Florita and her husband joined us for lunch on a warm summer’s day recently to present the most delicious picks of her Macanese menu. She is not only a brilliant cook but also an expert on local gastronomy and a “prominent culinary ambassador” – she seems to know everything about Macau cuisine and where it comes from.
While absorbing Florita’s exciting stories, we warmed up with a selection of tapas to start. Finger empanadas, tiny buns, bacalao croquettes made for a promising start and we knew we were in for a great meal. Presented on a wooden board, they represent Macanese cuisine perfectly.
Capela (Macanese Meatloaf)
We were so deep into our yummy starters, a rich Portuguese wine and lively conversation that we didn’t even notice when some new colorful plates began to appear on the table. The first one we sampled was a marvelous Capela. Getting the name from its resemblance with a cupola, this dish is a meatloaf in a Macanese style, but it’s nothing like any meatloaf you’ve tried before. It is absolutely authentic. The harmonious coalition of different kinds of meat (beef, pork, chorizo, and bacon) with a Mediterranean touch of olives, cheese, and pine nuts worked together just right.
Next came the renowned but humble Minchi. Being a classic dish that originated in local households, its recipe varies from one home to another. And as is common with home cooking, every cook claims their recipe to be the original. The key ingredient is minced meat – which is how Minchi got its name. The aroma from Florita’s Minchi wraps around us like a warm blanket and we can’t wait to check if it tastes as good as it smells. Once we tuck in it’s like heaven – juicy minced beef and fried pork with a mix of aromatic spices, diced potatoes, garlic, onion, and shallots. The rice balances the bold flavors and the egg yolk adds a bit of soft creaminess.
While we are focused on Minchi, the suckling pig arrives. You can say it’s a kind of destination dish, meaning that people would travel miles and miles to taste it. It’s probably most popular in Castilian Segovia, but also beloved in Portugal and many other European, Latin American and Asian countries. It’s not the easiest dish to prepare and certainly not your everyday dinner. Suckling pig is festive and is normally served during special occasions and big family gatherings. La Famiglia’s version truly does not disappoint. Tempting crunchy skin covers the tender succulence within, which literally melts in your mouth – just what you would expect from this entrée.
Coconut milk became an important Macanese ingredient back in the day when the Portuguese wives were adapting traditional recipes with whatever they had available. Thus coconut milk substituted dairy and it soon became firmly entrenched among other local culinary components. In Coconut Chicken, the coconut milk made the chicken even softer and subtly added an exotic note to this simple protein.
Chef Florita definitely cherishes Macanese culinary traditions and truly puts her heart in everything she creates. She brings to La Famiglia what she cooks at home for her family: “I would normally make Minchi and Capella at least once a week”. The passion and love that she has for Macanese cuisine is fully reflected in the La Famiglia concept and the homey dishes they serve. This is the restaurant’s zest that will make you return for more despite the abundance and extravagance of other Macau gastronomy destinations.