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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.
We often lament the state of Italian cuisine in Cairo restaurants. While it is of course in no short supply across both specialist Italian restaurants and other eateries that carry the maddeningly vague ‘international cuisine’ banner, few places in the capital deliver when it comes to authenticity.
Located in Downtown Cairo, Grazie, located on the second floor of the Hilton Ramses Annex, makes a good go of it. Despite being in the centre of Cairo, the restaurant has a rustic elegance about it; modestly chic décor; delicate displays of spaghetti alongside cooking oils and musical instruments, are as charming as the waiters who deliver excellent service.
There is a menu outside the restaurant so guests can look before entering and it displays many of Italy’s most iconic dishes such as Lasagne, Spaghetti Bolognaise and Penne Arrabiata.
After being seated, we were given a complimentary ‘shot’ – a green, mint-flavoured hot beverage – then, but a few moments later, the waiter arrived with another complimentary snack; a small plate of black pepper crackers with an additional tangy, tomato sauce.
For starters we ordered the Italian Salad (33.25LE), which consisted of a generous bed of fresh lettuce topped with chicken breast, tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers drizzled with an Italian dressing. It was delightfully fresh and the dressing gave it a nice, aromatic kick.
To follow we opted for Spaghetti Bolognaise (33.25LE) which was very generous in portion and very nicely presented, too. The edge of the plate was decorated with fresh finely-chopped parsley, framing the mound of spaghetti and meat/tomato sauce, and garnished with cherry tomatoes, a cracker and asparagus. The addition of grated-parmesan cheese topped off what was a top-notch tangy tomato sauce and basil, though the meat was meager in amount
Italian tradition dictates that one finishes a meal with a coffee or espresso and Grazie have provided a large variety of coffees on their menu, though there are also a range of soft drinks, cocktails and hot chocolate. We ordered a small espresso which was strong and robust and the perfect finish to this heavy meal.
Despite advertising itself as an Italian restaurant, Grazie also serves a large variety of Middle Eastern dishes such as Shish Tawook and Kofta with Rice.
But despite this, its location and its relative modesty, Grazie offers a pleasantly simple dining experience complete with good food at affordable prices.