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6th of October City, Cairo, Egypt.
Pasta Citta: New Branch, Same Great Food
Location is one of the most important aspects of any restaurant – it can make or break a venue, especially in a city like Cairo that keeps expanding outwards. It's as simple as this: if it's too far or hidden away, it simply doesn't get exposure and it's something that has been the death of many a restaurant.
Pasta Citta is one such restaurant which had that exact problem. With its first branch located in Beverly Hills, you're unlikely to have ever encountered it unless you were going there specifically for it. Its second venue, however, is in a prime location nearby at Rivulet, situated between Galleria40 and Capital Business Park.
The venue boasts a large outdoor area with simple metal seats covered with matching yellow or black cushions, which contrasted to the more modern look of the indoor dining area which had more comfortable grey and yellow seats with black round tables and chequered floors with an industrial ceiling of exposed air conditioning ducts and lighting wires.
As we took our seats outside, we opted for the Fried Potatoes Platter (37LE) as our appetiser, while ordering the Beef Lasagne (52LE), Cordon Bleu (85LE) and Beef Stroganoff (115 LE) as our main dishes.
The fried potatoes platter came as a medium-sized pot filled with French fries and sweet potato fries, with a small bowl of honey mustard for some extra flavour. Beautifully presented, the fries were great with an external crunch and tender centre; they were well seasoned with a herby aftertaste which worked well with the honey mustard. The Sweet potato fries, meanwhile, provided the perfect contrast to the savoury fries with a sweet aftertaste that also mixed well the honey mustard giving the sweeter side and extra punch to make the dish a well-balanced one.
Soon our main dishes started to arrive; served in a white rectangular bowl, the beef lasagne was a bit under-seasoned, but was still flavourful with a golden well-cooked top. It was easy to slice into, revealing the internal layers of the lasagne drenched with salsa and minced beef, all working together to form a tasty dish with one delightful bite after the other.
Exploding with aromas, the beef stroganoff came in a sizzling hot skillet; the sautéed beef strips were dripping with sauce and small pieces of mushrooms and onions, alongside a large white plate which had the rice and mashed potatoes as sides and a small gravy boat.
The beef itself was bursting with flavour in every bite with a generous amount of sauce which was by far the highlight of the evening. As for the sides, the rice was really overcooked as was melded into one big piece like sticky Chinese rice while also bland. The mashed potatoes, meanwhile, were great with a smooth texture that already had a great flavour and was given that extra kick from the gravy.
Coming in a large white plate, the cordon bleu came in a capsule-like shaped piece, cut in half alongside white rice and mashed potatoes and gravy. Unfortunately, it had been burnt, with an almost burnt black outer shell. It was quickly taken by the staff and we received a new one with the golden brown exterior we were waiting for.
The cordon bleu had a crumbly exterior shell, which fell apart as soon as we sliced into it, while the tender interior was stuffed with mozzarella and smoked turkey, every ingredient had powerful flavours that were balanced perfectly; the strong mozzarella taste hits first, smoothing the way for the chicken while keeping the turkey as a delightful aftertaste.
In the end, we had very little to complain about at Pasta Citta, with its new location putting it at the very entrance of Rivulet providing traffic and exposure. What it does with that spot is provide a great, comfortable seating area, attentive staff and good food; they also offer shisha for people looking for a nice, quiet place to enjoy with their friends.
Even though we have an endless amount of Italian restaurants in Cairo, we can all agree that only a few are able to do it justice – to make it truly authentic. Not only does Tavolino achieve this, but it goes a step further.
From the outside, the Zamalek restaurant, which is located off of Aboul Feda Streey, might seem very small, but it’s surprisingly spacious. Interior wise, it has a very simple yet chic appearance; white brick walls with a touch of wood, black and white frames, and triangular mirrors stand out, despite the almost overly yellow lighting.
Moving to food, we started our meal with Cannelloni (70LE) from the restaurant’s ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu, which adds twists to Italian classics. Six pieces of perfectly cooked cannelloni are stuffed with chicken and spinach, covered with melted mozzarella cheese and then topped with marinated tomato – similar to marinara sauce – and pesto sauce. A side of creamy gorgonzola sauce added a nutty flavour with a fantastic deep aftertaste and the dish showed Tavolino to be masters of art of flavour matching.
Another item we tried from the ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu was The Tenderloin in the Wood (235LE); a perfect medium-well tenderloin steak laying on a phyllo-like pastry that’s filled with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and onions, and served with sweet garlic sauce and an exquisite sweet and savoury blueberry-and-onion jam. This dish left us speechless; not only was the steak on its own bursting with Italian herb flavours, but the addition of the crunchy texture from the mushroom pocket with the unique sweetness of the jam merged with the sweet garlic sauce created an outstanding dish.
Deciding to go back to the basics with our last choice, we went with Risotto Alla Pescatora (120LE). Rich, creamy, and well-seasoned, it had spot-on al dente texture; mixed with well-cooked shrimps and mussels, the dish was close to perfect, but for the overcooked, mushy crab and rubbery calamari.
Another thing that kept Tavolino from getting a perfect score was the fact that, at the time of our visit, only the Ice Cream & Sorbet (50LE), which is 3 scoops of Movenpick ice cream, was available.
But that was just a side note to a great meal; we were surprised by Tavolino’s one-of-a-kind flavours, particularly those on the ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu, which certainly helps separate it from the crowd with a unique identity. Tavolino isn’t just another Italian restaurant.