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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Pizza Yalla: Pizza & Pasta on the Blue Nile Boat in Zamalek
With the wonderful arrival of Pizza Mia, it’s hard to imagine that one would go out of their way to try any other pizza venue in Zamalek. But in a cosy location on the lower deck of the Blue Nile boat, Pizza Yalla offers quite a different experience than one would expect from a typical pizza place.
Pizza Yalla has inside and outside seating areas, both adorned with a Nile view. If you’re craving pizza or pasta, the calm and secluded restaurant offers the right getaway for you. The venue is divided into three areas: the first is easily visible upon entering the large and welcoming glass doors. It incorporates an American-style kitchen seating area, with enough space to seat a large group of people. Going further into the venue, more humble, six-person family tables are set up. And finally, the outside area offers glass top tables, that seat four people, overlooking the Nile.
The staff was very friendly and welcoming; they responded quickly to all our queries but they didn’t know much English, so they unfortunately couldn’t understand most of our concerns. The atmosphere was very relaxing, with a nice, fresh feel to it – the overall mood was emphasized by the light-coloured wooden chairs with green and yellow cushion covers. During the day the place is well lit and floods with an abundance of natural light.
The restaurant offers pizzas, pastas, Paninis, salads and desserts. While the prices are a little steep, the convenience of the venue and its amicability more than make up for it. The selection of pizzas is quite limited, with only a few varieties, but it still manages to accommodate to everyone’s taste. We settled for a pizza Quattro Stagiani (50LE) and a Ravioli Al Salmone (65LE). The pizzas were large and though they didn’t look very aesthetically pleasing, their taste proved to be more than satisfying. Both dishes were well proportioned and left us happily full. Most of the pizzas on the menu are about 50LE and pastas 40LE; whereas the desserts are various and range about 25LE; juice and canned beverages are also available. Pizza Yalla does not have minimum charge.
The notion of a proper, authentic, untainted pizza has only recently clicked ion the Cairo dining scene. The concept of thin crust and emphasis on the tomato sauce not the cheese was practically unfathomable, considering how far down the localising-line pizza has gone.
Before the new contenders joined the market, though, there was just one well known pizzeria if you wanted a real pizza; Maison Thomas.
While no one disagrees that Maison Thomas’ glory days are well behind them, the question remains as to why?
Well, we could start by the fact that they’ve been unable to keep up with the times; for instance, the restaurant chain still no social media presence or any form of reach to a new generation of customers. This, of course, comes second to the food quality and steep prices.
Whatever the case, we figured we would go see for ourselves at their Maadi branch. Located on the second floor just by Metro Market, the interior boast that same old black and beige colour scheme. The décor seems like it stuck somewhere between an artisan café and a dingy bar.
It only recently came to our attention that Maison Thomas serve more than just pizza. So after browsing the menu, we opted for a Cheese Burger (45LE), a Milanesa (69LE) main course and a Bolognese Pizza (79LE).
Serving time was relatively quick, but the waiters weren’t the most friendly or helpful. The Cheese Burger, a 150g ground rump steak patty topped with melted gouda cheese, was decent, but definitely didn’t wow us.
The Milanesa, fried veal escalope with a side of french fries, was similarly average. The meat tasted good, but the fried outer layer was soggy and took away from the experience. The fries were, unfortunately, rather oily.
The Bolognese Pizza fared better than everything else. While the pizza was adequately covered in mozzarella cheese, oregano and tomatoes, with a decent layer of minced meat underneath, what really disappointed us was how scarce the tomato sauce was.
The problem with Maison Thomas seems to be small mistakes that take away from what would’ve otherwise been a great dish. In the case of the main course, the frying process leaves much to be desires, while in the case of the pizza - well, how can you be scarce with the tomato sauce? It’s the most important ingredient.