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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.
Hotels are notorious for housing some of the most high-end restaurants in Cairo and the Fairmont Heliopolis and Towers is no exception, housing an impressive 18 restaurants, bars and cafes, catering to every style of cuisine for discerning palettes.
Tucked away in the old Fairmont building, Leonardo’s dining area is placed in a small enclosure open to the hotel, but gated by indoor plants and clear plastic vases filled with fresh apples. Each table has delicate, glass place-settings stained in elegant peacock colors that were removed once we were seated. Returning with the menus, the waiter filled our glasses with chilled water and left us to our own devices with the strictly Italian menu.
The menu is easily navigated with sections marked for appetisers and soups, pizza, pasta andrisotto, seafood, meat, and of course desserts. Upon placing the complimentary breadsticks and tray of cheese pastries, the waiter patiently awaited our order while we struggled with pronouncing the names of our dishes.
To start, we selected the Penne Arrabbiata (85LE) and a Long Island Iced Tea (105LE). While waiting for our starter, we whetted our appetites with the savory cheese sambousak and mini quiches. Though a tad oily, the rich texture and salty interior of the turnovers quelled our rumbling stomachs just in time for the Penne’s arrival.
The pasta in our Penne Arrabbiata was cooked with a perfect al dente bite and was mixed in a light tomato and chili pepper sauce with a mild drizzle of pesto accenting the vivid red of the pasta beautifully. Incredibly spicy, the flavours were positively explosive and were highlighted by the intense kick of the peppers. The parmesan delivered alongside the dish helped to mute the heat of the sauce, as well as provide a savoury balance to offset the sweetness of the tomatoes. Presented in a tall glass, the Long Island Iced Tea was a powerful concoction that proved a little too strong for the casual constitution of the pasta.
Coming highly recommended by our enthusiastic waiter, we decided on the Seafood Risotto (160LE) from the mains section. Moving the decorative shrimp heads to the side of the plate revealed an aromatic mixture of creamy risotto bubbling in red sauce cooked with the delectable marine broth present in the dish. With pieces of shrimp, mussel, flakes of lobster and delicate white fish, every mouthful was a chewy delight of incredible textures and flavors from the sea.
Moving to dessert, a gorgeous Tiramisu (50LE) was presented in a cocktail glass and was layered with light cream, ladyfingers and rich chocolate espresso filling. Covered with a generous helping of powdered chocolate, the Tiramisu was a decadent ending to a very hearty meal.
Although prices are a bit steep, Leonardo provides great Italian dishes with rich flavors and generous portions which won’t have you walking away disappointed.