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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.
Sometimes you just need wholesome, dependable food – and there’s little you can depend on, when it comes to dining in Cairo. It doesn’t matter which cuisine, just one that you know you love and can have repeatedly. For this reviewer, that happens to be Italian, and while this is a cuisine we’ve discussed at length as the single most badly executed in Egypt, there are a few gems out there who get it.
One of these is a small diner on Road 231 in Degla Maadi called La Rosa. With a very casual atmosphere and framed photos of Italy combined with wine bottles covered in wax to set the décor, La Rosa is laidback and puts the focus on the food. The lighting is dim and when there’s music, it’s suitably low, only lingering in the background.
A waiter will greet you at the door when you walk in and set menus at the table for you. The prices at La Rosa vary greatly. On one side of the spectrum, you have very affordable pizza and pasta (27LE40LE), though on the other end, the main courses range between 75LE and 95LE.
We decided on the Pizza Funghi (32LE) as well as Tortellini (34LE) and Farfalle la Rosa (35LE). From previous experience we knew the Tortellini isn’t as filling as the other dishes and would serve better as an appetiser.
As per custom at La Rosa, a complimentary Bruschetta appetiser is served before the food. The soft in the centre, crunchy around the edges bread worked very well with the topping of seasoned and diced tomatoes.
The pizza at La Rosa is one of our favourites across Egypt for two reasons. The crust is the perfect thinness, crunchiness and doesn’t flap – and they don’t charge you 60LE for it.
Our Funghi Pizza was exactly that; the tomato sauce was delicious, the cheese wasn’t overpowering and the fresh mushrooms were the cherry on top of a very delicious cake.
Unfortunately, the pasta didn’t hold up as well. The Tortellini, one of the hardest to execute because of a specific folding technique to the pasta, came undone on our plate. While the ricotta cheese and spinach stuffing was flavourful and seasoned well, the cream sauce was a bit in terms of combining with the other flavours.
With the Farfalle la Rosa, consisting of pasta with pink sauce and cooked smoked salmon, was perfectly cooked and tasted fresh. The salmon wasn’t as plentiful as we had hoped, but delicious nonetheless.
While we may remember La Rosa as slightly better than what we experienced, at least in the pasta department, the pizzas were still up to standard and the restaurant prioritises the quality of the food over the shallow pizzazz that so many other restaurants seem to want to rely on.