Sign in using your account with
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Benissimo: New Italian Restaurant in Zamalek
It seems licenses to open up a restaurant are given out for free lately by the government. Everywhere you look, new restaurant and cafes are blooming, especially in Zamalek. One of the latest venues to open is Italian eatery Benissimo. Located by Kafficho and Hardee’s, this once quiet corner of Zamalek is rapidly gaining more and more popularity and foot traffic.
Benissimo’s interior is fairly plain; modern and slick, but lacking ambiance. The walls, tables and ceiling are all the same colour and the lamps are very bright giving a slightly uncomfortable feel to the place. The menu is just as boring as the décor.
There were only four starters to choose from; two soups and two salads. Because of this very limited choice we decided to skip the appetizers and instead focus on the pizza and pasta. While browsing the menu we received complimentary bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, olives and cheese. It turned out to be very good and we are sure this would be a popular item if it were added to the appetizers on the menu.
After the tasty bruschetta, expectations were high and when we received the food we couldn’t help but dig in. The blue cheese and walnut pasta (21LE) came without the walnuts, the blue cheese sauce was surprisingly tasty and not overpowering, but the pasta was undercooked and difficult to chew.
Despite this, it fared better than the steak with mushroom sauce (48LE). The meat was of very low quality and lacked the tenderness one looks for with steak; it was tough and riddle with fat and tendons. Even just cutting the meat proved to be difficult. The mushroom sauce was way too salty while the mashed potatoes on the side were plain and overall lacked in taste.
The chicken barbeque pizza (29LE) hit the spot without being spectacular. The barbeque sauce that topped the pizza overpowered the chicken but at least it wasn’t drowned in cheese, as is the case with a lot of pizza in Cairo.
To their credit, staff members were helpful, pleasant and prompt despite our gripes. As with all new restaurants, Benissimo shows promise, but the restaurant is in esteemed company in Zamalek and will need to improve drastically to compete.
Founded in 1993, Cortigiano could well be considered a pioneer in Italian cuisine on Cairo’s restaurant scene. While there are other more, what you might consider, authentic Italian restaurants around these days, its versatile menu – anchored by several Italian classics – has cemented its position as a go-to favourite for a date night, or a friends/family outing during the weekend.
Cortigiano has preserved a rustic Italian ambiance throughout the years in all of its branches; brick walls, old metallic utensils, dim lighting and cosy atmosphere – none more so than at its Heliopolis branch.
Going through the menu during out last visit, we opted for Salmone Affumicato E Gamberi (83.93LE) as an appetiser – platter of smoked salmon with capers, shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, boiled shrimps smothered in shrimp cocktail sauce. The entire ensemble was full of bright, fresh flavours, but the amount of sauce overpowered, the shrimps and anything else you dipped into it.
Shortly after, our main courses arrived; Scaloppine Cordon Bleu (89.95LE) and Casserolla Cortigiano (95.95LE).
Served as two veal steaks covered in mozzarella and tomatoes, and stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, and roast beef served, the cordon bleu was well-cooked, fried evenly, with oozing cheese and mushrooms inside. Overall, it had balanced flavours, but it needed an extra seasoning kick, the roast beef was barely discernible and the sautéed vegetables were poorly cut and undercooked.
Our second dish, unfortunately, fared worse. The Casseroula Cortigiano is essentially diced veal and beef, served in gravy and topped with mozazarella cheese – a fine combination on paper, but despite being generous in portion and overall being cooked well, there were no real standout flavours and it soon became very one-note.
Our choice for dessert was the Apple Tart (41.95LE), essentially a slice of pie stuffed with cinnamon-soaked apple pieces and accompanied with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Though we had expectations of a warm apple tart, the tart was cold and tasted noticeably un-fresh.
We’ve been to Cortigiano many times and, personally, will continue to do so, because we are, of course, creature of habit. You know what you’re getting when you go there, but can it still be considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the city? On this visit, no.