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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Pomodoro: Possibly the Best Seafood Pasta in Downtown Cairo
Delicious spaghetti in clam sauce is but wishful thinking in Cairo, right? Think again. A hidden restaurant inconspicuously located off Bab El Louk and nearby El Horreya serves the best seafood pasta south of Alexandria. Two years ago, Cairo 360 visited Pomodoro when it was just a baladi street eatery barely occupying more than a hole in the wall. Since then, the restaurant has changed, but it still serves up one of the best seafood meals money can buy in Cairo.
After buying a much more spacious adjoining storefront, Pomodoro shed the tiny plastic chairs and miniature ahwa tables for much more trendy leather chairs and glass tabletops. The red and black colour scheme, warm atmosphere and enticing aromas combine to make an ambiance that is not altogether unlike an upscale pizzeria. Word on the street is that the owner studied culinary arts in Italy, and furthermore he insists on hand cooking each and every plate that comes out of his kitchen. Whatever the truth may be, the attention to detail in the kitchen has certainly satisfied many hungry patrons.
As one can only expect with the burgeoning of a successful business, there have been some modifications to the menu and prices over the last two years. The simple menu contains pasta dishes with either seafood or meat toppings in addition to offering a few sandwiches. The seafood pasta plate starts at 25LE and goes up to 50LE depending on size as well as your choice of ingredients which include calamari, crab, shrimp and clams. We ordered the 35LE shrimp pasta and it was delivered piping hot with shrimp scampi smothered in rich, peppery tomato sauce complete with four good-sized crawfish on the side. The generous portions, herbs, spices and fresh vegetables make for nothing less than seafood heaven. If you cannot decide on ingredients, simply order the seafood pasta combo, and you will receive a smorgasbord of seafood cuisine.
Operating within the same price range, chicken and meat pasta combos are available for those patrons who may not be in the mood for fishy plates. Those looking to avoid meats altogether will enjoy the hearty vegetable pasta (25LE) comprised of carrots, peas, onions, zucchinis, and tomatoes. Still others looking for lighter orders or lunchtime options will find seafood (20LE), shrimp (20LE) and chicken (15LE) sandwiches.
Though the heaping portion of seafood pasta for 15LE that could be ordered two years ago is no longer available, this should by no means discourage you from visiting Pomodoro. You may have to fork out a few more pounds, but you will not have to eat in the street nor use your shirt cuff as a napkin. With a comfortable atmosphere, plenty of napkins, and most importantly scrumptious seafood pasta, Pomodoro remains in a league of its own when it comes to seafood in Cairo.
Located in Sheikh Zayed’s Tivoli Dome, La Pizza Alforno is another Cairo restaurant claiming to offer pizza at its most authentic. One of the other, slightly peculiar, reasons for the restaurant’s increasing popularity is the novel half-moon shaped pizza on offer.
Bringing Italian tradition to Tivoli Dome, Alforno's wooden chairs, wood-fired oven and stereotypically Italian, red and white tablecloths bring an air of authenticity to the place. While the venue is split into an outdoor and an indoor section, the indoor area seems a little tight in space. Taking precedence over seating, the wood-fired oven and pizza bar are placed proudly in the centre of the restaurant.
Despite directly overlooking the street, the outdoor area is much more spacious, and being located far from all the other cramped cafes, the restaurant benefits from a secluded, private ambience that you rarely get at these types of strip-mall-food-courts.
Our meal begun in pleasant style, when we were served a complimentary dish; three small slices of garlic bread, topped off with olive oil. Alongside the bread came two different dips – tuna and mayonnaise paste, and olive paste mixed with anchovies. Although this kept us busy while we waited for our appetiser, the traditionally salty olive paste and anchovies dip was just that little too bit salty.
We began our meal with the Insalata Di Racula (39LE); a mixture of green leaves, apples, walnuts and raspberry lime dressing. The Di Racula was simple and small in portion, making for a light and basic starter, before moving on to the main course.
As expected from a restaurant claiming to be authentically Italian, Alforno’s menu offers a variety of pizzas and pastas. We ordered the Alfredo Con Polo pasta (46LE) and the half-moon Funghi pizza (49LE). The pizza was immediately favoured over the pasta; while the Con Polo’s creamy mushroom sauce was lighter than most white sauces, the chicken was dry and over cooked.
On the other hand, the uniquely shaped half-moon Funghi pizza was crisp, boasted just the right amount and blend of cheese and a rich, homemade tomato sauce, all topped off with mushroom and infused with oregano.
While the dessert menu was full of inviting options, we decided to go for the Focaccia Alla Nutella (38LE). Baked with the same pizza dough and covered in Nutella chocolate, the simple, sweet dish was perfectly balanced in flavour thanks to a sensibly modest use of the rich chocolate spread.
Though the food was far from spectacular, La Pizza Alforno offer a creative, if superfluous, twist to their pizzas, complete with original homemade flavours in an authentic pizzeria atmosphere.