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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.
Few cuisines are more saturated on the Cairo dining scene than Italian cuisine – Lebanese is a strong contender, but it’s Italian that, more often than not, is quit divisive when it comes to that tricky little thing called authenticity. Some restaurants are able to capture what the cuisine is about, while others fail entirely.
Cairo 360 had previously paid a visit to La Pizza Alforno’s Sheikh Zayed branch and the reviewer largely enjoyed their time there, but, in our experience, that doesn’t even begin to guarantee that its Citystars branch would be as successful – consistency is another field that few restaurants maintain.
Sporting the same redbrick oven, the decor is definitely part of the restaurant’s highlights, especially when you consider it a sanctuary of sorts from the hustle and bustle of the mall. The staff were immediately very helpful, and polite, upon entry, showing us to our seats and placing menus on our table with the type of subtle urgency that any growling, hungry diner needs.
We opted for a Mussels Trio (55LE) to start off the meal – mussels in a tomato sauce with garlic. While it was on the greasy side, it was so flavourful that we’d have been very happy with more.
Looking for some kind of lubricant for the carb-heavy meal ahead, we ordered Lemon and Mint (16LE) and Orange (16LE) juices – both were fresh and flavourful.
The menu doesn’t offer a lot of variety when it comes to pastas and we opted for the Shrimp Fettuccini (62LE). Though the pasta was cooked well – something that is by no means a certainty across Cairo – and it was all seasoned well, it was everything else that let the dish down. What was meant to be a creamy sauce was actually very runny in consistency, while the shrimp was cooked unevenly.
Hoping the pizza could salvage the situation, the Mama Mia Pizza (55LE) disappointed, too. The promised pepperoni was scarce – as was the mozzarella – and although the base was cooked to pleasing balance of crunch-and-chew, the addition of cheddar cheese did the pizza no favours; it dried and hardened to an almost waxy consistency fairly quickly and, if its use is the cause of having such little mozzarella, was just unnecessary.
Hoping to end on a high note with Crème Brule (26LE), the dessert disappointed, too. The best part of a Crème Brule, hands down, is the layer of caramelised sugar on top – call us pretentious, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about cracking through the brittle layer. Unfortunately, however, there was no such satisfaction; the top had barely been kissed by a flame and the rest was ever so slightly undercooked.
It’s unfortunate that, at the time of our visit, much of the food disappointed. La Pizza Alforno has all the ingredients to be a top Italian restaurant in Cairo, but lack of attention to detail derailed any hope of that.