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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.
Founded in 1993, Cortigiano could well be considered a pioneer in Italian cuisine on Cairo’s restaurant scene. While there are other more, what you might consider, authentic Italian restaurants around these days, its versatile menu – anchored by several Italian classics – has cemented its position as a go-to favourite for a date night, or a friends/family outing during the weekend.
Cortigiano has preserved a rustic Italian ambiance throughout the years in all of its branches; brick walls, old metallic utensils, dim lighting and cosy atmosphere – none more so than at its Heliopolis branch.
Going through the menu during out last visit, we opted for Salmone Affumicato E Gamberi (83.93LE) as an appetiser – platter of smoked salmon with capers, shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, boiled shrimps smothered in shrimp cocktail sauce. The entire ensemble was full of bright, fresh flavours, but the amount of sauce overpowered, the shrimps and anything else you dipped into it.
Shortly after, our main courses arrived; Scaloppine Cordon Bleu (89.95LE) and Casserolla Cortigiano (95.95LE).
Served as two veal steaks covered in mozzarella and tomatoes, and stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, and roast beef served, the cordon bleu was well-cooked, fried evenly, with oozing cheese and mushrooms inside. Overall, it had balanced flavours, but it needed an extra seasoning kick, the roast beef was barely discernible and the sautéed vegetables were poorly cut and undercooked.
Our second dish, unfortunately, fared worse. The Casseroula Cortigiano is essentially diced veal and beef, served in gravy and topped with mozazarella cheese – a fine combination on paper, but despite being generous in portion and overall being cooked well, there were no real standout flavours and it soon became very one-note.
Our choice for dessert was the Apple Tart (41.95LE), essentially a slice of pie stuffed with cinnamon-soaked apple pieces and accompanied with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Though we had expectations of a warm apple tart, the tart was cold and tasted noticeably un-fresh.
We’ve been to Cortigiano many times and, personally, will continue to do so, because we are, of course, creature of habit. You know what you’re getting when you go there, but can it still be considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the city? On this visit, no.