Italian cuisine has come to occupy an almost innate existence on the Cairo restaurant scene – there are few restaurants that don't feature at least pasta dishes that hark back to classic Italian cuisine, not to mention pizza.
The problem is that in the majority of these restaurants, Italian dishes have become so far removed from Italian staples – pasta cooked al dente and the pizza sauce-to-cheese ratio are just two concepts that don't quite translate in Egyptian kitchens, for example. In the Cairo 360 Editors' Choice Award Winners in the Italian Cuisine (which includes the Authentic Pizzeria Award), we have a group that understand the principles that have made the foods of Italy so popular all around the world.
'High-End Italian Cuisine at its Finest' was the title of Cairo 360 last review of Bella – a delightful Italian eatery nestled inside the Four Seasons Nile Plaza in Garden City. Boasting a chic and sophisticated interior which is kept light and breezy with art and use of wood, the open kitchen and spectacular wine bottle display only serve to add to the excellent, authentic dishes.
Downtown Cairo is full of character, but Eish & Malh has carved out a unique character of its own, bringing together the wust el balad hustle, with a simple but expert take on dining, accentuated by its excellent menu. Though its perfect as a café-come-hangout, the bistro's menu features several not-Italian dishes, but the kitchen certainly knows how to whip up an Italian storm.
Unlike the current trend, La Trattoria's popularity and success owe nothing to clever social media campaigns, or to promotion of any sort, in fact. What maintains the Zamalek restaurant's standing as one of the best in Cairo – some argue that it's the best – is its consistency in delivering spectacularly on its varied and eclectic menu, against a simple, unfussy backdrop.
Inter Continental Semiramis' Pane Vino has gone from a largely archetypal, by-the-numbers hotel restaurant, to one of the best spots for authentic Italian food in the city. While its name, which translates to 'bread' and 'wine', suggest it takes a simple approach, its dishes in fact are amongst some of the most complex, but without losing their hold of traditional Italian flavours.
The gorgeous Korba has emerged as a modern and cosmopolitan area for dining in recent times and one of the latest restaurants to impress is Italian eatery, Pepenero. Straddling the line between rustic and playful, there's a certain flair to Pepenero's food, be in in the form of its presentation or its sheer gluttonous nature – whether the former or latter, it's certainly a pleaser.
With a huge stain-glass window that lets in plenty of natural light into its urban-Tuscan interior, Four Seasons First Residence's STRADA certainly looks the part. But beyond the unique interior and mesmerising Nile view, this is a restaurant that is considered the best in the hotel, thanks to an overall outstanding dining experience.
It takes something special to make diners look past the nuisance, let's call it, of dining in a mall – it just feels a little rushed and casual. In Vapiano, though, you have a restaurant that takes you away from the blare of one of the busiest malls in the capital, Cairo Festival City. The international chain does so with excellent food and a serve-your-self approach that has gone down a treat with Cairenes.
Pizza bar is a pretty hot phrase in the world of dining these days, so it was only natural that someone in Egypt would bring the concept to Cairo. No one quite have imagined that it would have been executed quite in as much style as Andiamo in Heliopolis has done. Good pizza aside, you go to Andiamo for the whole experience – it's lively, stylishly casual and serves a mean sangria.
Enjoying a hushed existence in Zamalek, Il Divino opened to plenty of fan fair, as pizza lovers rejoiced at its quality of food when it opened – a quality that persists. Wrapped in a chic yet casual dining package, what comes out of the restaurant's wood-fired pizza has been keeping diners coming back for more – and there could be more branches opening up in the next year.
With ownership connections between it and another winner, La Trattoria, it should come as no surprise that Maison Thomas is on the list again. While the other dishes are just as good, it's the pizza that has made this Zamalek stalwart what it is today; you might even call Maison Thomas a trailblazer for the contemporary pizzeria in Cairo.
For more on the 2016 Cairo 360 Editors' Choice Awards, click here, where you can see all of this year's winners.