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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.
Cairo isn't exactly an easy city to navigate, especially when trying to find a place in unfamiliar terrotory. Every now and then, you’ll see a random menu or neon sign that you haven’t seen before and you’ll either be instinctually intrigued, or completely put off.
In one such case, we came across a neon backlit sign that said Piccolo. Looking through the glass the restaurant had decent decor with cushioned chairs and plant pots with spotlights at the entrance. A waiter greeted us at the glass door and led us to an empty table, laid out the menus, and retreated. Upon inspecting the menus, which is heavy on Italian dishes.
Historically speaking, there have been many that have labelled themselves as an Italian restaurant, only to dissapoint; they don’t necessarily have to be high end to serve good pasta, but generally, the odds are against them because of how localised most of Italian cuisine has become.
The menu offers salads, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, a few mains and desserts. We started with a Pollo Salad (22.50LE) and moved onto a Piccolo Pizza (42.5LE) and Piccolo Meal 1 (45LE) from the main courses.
The Pollo Salad featured grilled chicken, arugula, cucumbers and tomatoes with balsamic dressing; while the chicken was cooked and seasoned to decent flavour, the balsamic dressing, sadly, overpowered all other flavours, giving the arugula even more of an undesired kick.
The Piccolo Pizza, which is topped with salami, chicken, turkey and sausage plus vegetables, olives cheese and basil sauce, was very disorienting as a pizza. The crust was very thick, while the tomato sauce was minimal, with the cheese taking up most of the flavour. We appreciate the use of oregano, but it was more of a turkey and cheese sandwich than a pizza.
The Piccolo Meal 1 consists of a grilled chicken breast and pasta. We opted for their Napoli pasta which is simple spaghetti with tomato sauce, basil and oregano. The chicken breast was, one again cooked and seasoned well, but rather plain in taste. The pasta, on the other hand, was surprisingly better than we expected, albeit a little greasy. The use of oregano really adds to the complexity of a tomato sauce and the restaurant's use of both basil and oregano extends across much of the menu.
While the food, especially the pizza, could certainly use some revision, the venue is clean, the waiters attentive and the prices are very decent.