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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Pasta Republic: Creamy, Heavy Pasta!
The dodgier end of Road Nine in Maadi is undergoing a change: chic new venues are popping up, including Pasta Republic, which provides an airy but rustic Italian inspired atmosphere. While many of us never venture past Diwan on this side of Road Nine, this hidden venue is starting to attract a new crowd. Located across from Ceramic Café, Pasta Republic doesn’t offer light Italian fare but hearty portions that are perfect for the very hungry.
Pasta Republic has modern décor and a glass exterior; and although it is new and not yet bustling, it seems to be attracting a growing clientele.
While the space is open and well-put together, the couch-like seats have awkward backs and don't let you recline at all; instead, they dig uncomfortably into your back. Despite the odd seating, the overall atmosphere is pleasant, and the service is attentive and efficient.
The food is truly heavy, yummy comfort food with rich, creamy sauces and heaping portions. While extremely tasty, be warned that it will be a heavy meal; perhaps schedule a nap into your post-dinner plans. It’s still uncertain if this place will have as much appeal come summer; so be sure to get there before the July heat hits Cairo .
The menu boasts a full range of dishes, from appetisers like an extremely fresh and zesty bruschetta to full courses of chicken and meat with side portions of steaming pasta to thick, warm though somewhat sauce-less pizzas.
The speciality is by all means the pasta, and all kinds of it. Here you can make up your own pasta dish. The waiter brings out a plate to demonstrate the different kinds, from corkscrew fusilli to bird nest tagliatelle; there is a broad spectrum of choices. There are a range of sauces but the cream or rose sauces are highly recommended. Then come the toppings, with the sundried tomatoes adding a sweet smoky flavour, perfection with a topping of grilled chicken. Whatever your pasta fancy, you have a vote on the type, the sauce and even the topping; so if it is control you crave, it is control you get at Pasta Republic.
The watermelon and strawberry juices were both icy cold and fresh-tasting. The only dessert we sampled was similarly refreshing: a bowl of two scoops of ice cream from their sweets section. We chose strawberry and chocolate from the line-up of vanilla, mango, chocolate and strawberry. The strawberry was a tart sorbet while the chocolate was rich and contained pieces of genuine chocolate. The moderate portion made a delightful conclusion to the steaming pasta meal.
Prices start at around 40LE for a pasta entrée, with different accents– such as chicken cubes, beef bacon, sun dried tomato, mushrooms, seafood and more– each accruing an additional 10LE to near 22LE to the total. Depending on how many flavours you crave, the price therefore varies, but is generally well worth it for the generous portions. Overall, this is the perfect place for those wishing to tailor their meal; but do come ravenous and ready to feast.
Even though we have an endless amount of Italian restaurants in Cairo, we can all agree that only a few are able to do it justice – to make it truly authentic. Not only does Tavolino achieve this, but it goes a step further.
From the outside, the Zamalek restaurant, which is located off of Aboul Feda Streey, might seem very small, but it’s surprisingly spacious. Interior wise, it has a very simple yet chic appearance; white brick walls with a touch of wood, black and white frames, and triangular mirrors stand out, despite the almost overly yellow lighting.
Moving to food, we started our meal with Cannelloni (70LE) from the restaurant’s ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu, which adds twists to Italian classics. Six pieces of perfectly cooked cannelloni are stuffed with chicken and spinach, covered with melted mozzarella cheese and then topped with marinated tomato – similar to marinara sauce – and pesto sauce. A side of creamy gorgonzola sauce added a nutty flavour with a fantastic deep aftertaste and the dish showed Tavolino to be masters of art of flavour matching.
Another item we tried from the ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu was The Tenderloin in the Wood (235LE); a perfect medium-well tenderloin steak laying on a phyllo-like pastry that’s filled with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and onions, and served with sweet garlic sauce and an exquisite sweet and savoury blueberry-and-onion jam. This dish left us speechless; not only was the steak on its own bursting with Italian herb flavours, but the addition of the crunchy texture from the mushroom pocket with the unique sweetness of the jam merged with the sweet garlic sauce created an outstanding dish.
Deciding to go back to the basics with our last choice, we went with Risotto Alla Pescatora (120LE). Rich, creamy, and well-seasoned, it had spot-on al dente texture; mixed with well-cooked shrimps and mussels, the dish was close to perfect, but for the overcooked, mushy crab and rubbery calamari.
Another thing that kept Tavolino from getting a perfect score was the fact that, at the time of our visit, only the Ice Cream & Sorbet (50LE), which is 3 scoops of Movenpick ice cream, was available.
But that was just a side note to a great meal; we were surprised by Tavolino’s one-of-a-kind flavours, particularly those on the ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu, which certainly helps separate it from the crowd with a unique identity. Tavolino isn’t just another Italian restaurant.