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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
La Rosa: Old School Italian Restaurant in Maadi
The small interior is made up of old Chianti bottles now covered in candle-wax and framed pictures of Rome and Venice. The owner of La Rosa is known to have spent years living in Italy, only to come home and open a small plot for himself. The atmosphere is casual with just as many Egyptian couples dining as expatriates. Bring a bottle, bouchon free, and they’ll even wrap it in a checkered red and white napkin. It’s a small sort of place where you get to see every pizza go into the oven.
The Pizza Primavera, (34LE) comes with artichokes, spinach, peppers, mushrooms and olives. We also ordered the Pizza La Playa with onions and chillies (22LE), to which we added pineapple and arugula, bringing it to 32LE. It was delicious; both spicy and sweet. Both pizzas came out bubbling and cheesy. And as many toppings as there were on the Primavera, it still somehow kept its shape, even in the face of getting eaten.
Their pizzas are large, with a thin crust, crispy enough to hold a slice in the air without flopping, but still chewy. The toppings are fresh and piled high (try the arugula). But the best is that La Rosa’s pizzas range from just 19LE to 34LE. And if you want to add something, extra cheese will set you back 4LE, vegetables 5LE, and meat 7LE. If you aren’t in the mood for pizza, then one of La Rosa’s pastas will still keep you under-budget. Their meat dishes however do get pricey. The Filetto La Rosa, a beef filetto with four cheeses, mushrooms, and peppers, is 80LE.
According to multiple Italians’ input, the Farfalle La Rosa (32LE) is as good as a salmon pink-sauce gets. Parsley tops the al-dente bowties that come with pieces of smoked salmon, tossed and served with Parmesan cheese.
A 3LE cover charge per person affords you bruschetta and garlic bread that come before every meal. Also a large bottle of water (12LE) is opened in front of you unless otherwise prompted. If we had had any more room for dessert we would have ended with a tiramisu (19LE); lady fingers soaked in espresso and layered with mascarpone and cocoa. But alas, La Rosa’s mains are just too filling.
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.