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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.
More often than not, Italian food in Egyptian restaurants ends up only remotely resembling the real thing; bready pizzas, pastas with questionable sauces and caprese with the wrong cheese. We did, however, manage to find one that ticked all the right boxes for us when it came to the authenticity of its dishes in New Cairo: Fratelli La Bufala.
Overlooking Cairo Festival City’s dancing fountain, the spacious restaurant offers both outdoor and indoor seating; both of which are equally tempting. The indoor décor is Mediterranean-inspired - more Spanish than Italian - with soft lighting and wood and iron panels that gave it a modern, yet nostalgic, air. We opted for the outdoor seating.
The menu was filled with pages of traditional Italian treats. The appetisers included some Italian salads, including La Bufalata and La Mozzata, which is fit for a large group wanting to share, as it features a large 500 gram piece of Mozzarella cheese. We also spotted some Bruschetta and Carpaccio. The main courses ranged from pastas and pizzas, to meat-based dishes, Risottos and, surprisingly, burgers.
As soon as we placed our orders, our table was garnished with a hefty bread basket. We immediately started munching on the doughy delights and used the olive oil and balsamic vinegar already. Our food arrived a little while later and to say it was pure eye candy is an understatement.
Our Caprese (65LE) - layers of tomato slices and mozzarella cheese sprinkled with basil and oregno - was delightfully light with, perhaps, some of the most delicious tasting mozzarella cheese we have ever had in Egypt. Our just-out-of-the-oven Neapolitan pizzas were just exactly that; thin-crusted, covered in real mozzarella cheese and baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. We had opted for the Margherita DOP (67LE), a simple, traditional margherita pizza topped with some porcini mushrooms. We also went for the Diavola (60LE), which is topped with beef salami and fiery spices, which was pleasingly spicy and absolutely scrumptious.
Our pizzas were so dense and satisfying that we couldn’t even glance at the dessert menu, which featured quite an array of alluring options. We spotted some tiramisu, cheese cake, fruit platters, graffa, apple tarte and ice cream.
Fratelli La Bufala satisfied all our Italian cravings with its quality dishes; we fell in love with their mozzarella cheese and mouth-watering pizza dough. Our waiter was exceptionally helpful and quite fun to talk to and the whole place was impeccable. Sure, we paid a little extra for a simple salad, but it was absolutely worth every penny. Next time, though, we’re leaving room for dessert.