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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.
Despite Egypt’s maniacal love for pizza, it’s still – along with many other Italian specialities – one of the most consistently mistreated dishes amongst Cairo restaurants. In fairness, though, the last few years has seen a rise in pizza specialists – Pizza Mia, Vinny’s Pizzeria, et al – that have tried valiantly, with wavering success, to bring authenticity to it.
The latest to try its hand at the pizza game is delivery-only Pizzinia. After stumbling across its modest, and slightly crude, Facebook page, perusing the menus revealed that the Maadi-based kitchen also churns out traditional pastas as well as some unusual and acutely non-Italian items like Chicken-Shrimp Cajun and Mexican Chicken pastas.
The pizzas come in three sizes; we opted for a Large BBQ Chicken Pizza (40LE), as well as a Chicken Alfredo Pasta (27LE). We were told the food would arrive in twenty minutes – a rather ambitious promise by any standard. As expected, it didn’t arrive in twenty minutes, but thirty – which in fairness is still pretty fast.
The food arrived very neatly wrapped and in practical packaging. The pasta was served in a compartmented box that has separate areas for the pasta, extra sauce and pieces of garlic bread, which comes as standard with all pasta orders.
The Chicken Alfredo Pasta, topped with slices of chicken breast, parmesan cheese, mushrooms and cream sauce, was quite delicious. The portion of chicken was generous, seasoned perfectly and cooked well, while the amount of cheese was proportionate to the rest of the food. Our only problem was the sauce was a bit scarce, as well as being thin and watery.
The BBQ Chicken Pizza, topped with chicken, bell peppers, olives, mozzarella cheese, BBQ sauce and a special Pizzinia marinara sauce, tasted every bit as good as it looked. With an authentic, thin crust and a consistent layer of delicious, molten cheese, the combination of flavours was a simple one, but a satisfying one nonetheless.
While the very notion of BBQ Chicken leans more towards American-style rather than authentic Italian, Pizzinia can still lay claim to making the misleadingly simple dough-sauce-cheese combo that is pizza. The prices are pretty reasonable, the delivery time is fast and the staff are pleasant and efficient over the phone – they even called after the food was delivered to make sure was ok, welcoming our comment about the pasta sauce.