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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Cortigiano: Family Friendly Restaurant in Heliopolis
Upon entering the restaurant, it dawned on us we must have chosen one of the busiest restaurants in the area as it was filled to the brim with hungry families. Surprisingly, noise was not a problem – we thought perhaps because everybody was too busy enjoying the food.
At the time of our visit, Cortigiano was naturally lit with the afternoon sun and the atmosphere was both comfortable and inviting with warm, wooden panelling, traditional lamp shades and art work. We weren't neglected by the staff either and were shown to a table within minutes and presented with their detailed, diverse menus.
For drinks, we opted for Sunshine (14.95LE) – a cocktail of Grenadine and lemonade –and a peach iced tea (9.95LE).
After pondering over their interesting selection of starters, we chose the one that intrigued us the most; Involtini Primavera Con Carne (24.95LE), described as pies stuffed with meat and cabbage, served with a 'special sauce'. Because there was so much to choose from, we had difficulty deciding on the mains so we reeled the waiter in for his recommendations and he assured us that the Filleto Alla Pizzaiola (79.95LE) – beef with mozzarella cheese and black olive sauce – was the way forward. We also chose the Pollo Alla Americano (55.95), chicken with sweet pepper sauce, tomatoes and onions.
A complimentary basket of crispy, buttery garlic bread was brought to the table, making a change from the usual bread usually presented at restaurants. The starter arrived quickly, and, rather than the small pies we were expecting, they turned out to be just meat and cabbage spring rolls. Despite the un-originality, we couldn't complain; they were hot, crispy and finger-lickingly juicy. The special sauce on the other hand was an incredibly sweet, fruit jam, more suited to breakfast toast than a savoury starter.
The priority on such a busy day was the food and, eventually, after we had finished the starter, the drinks arrived. The iced tea turned out to be a safe choice as it was a popular, canned brand. The Sunshine cocktail, although not difficult to mix, was scrumptious and refreshing with extra added lemon, making it the best we’ve tasted.
Once the starter had been cleared, without delay, the main courses were brought to our table. As promised, the large portion of beef fillet was delicious and tender with a large amount of sauce to eat with the smooth, creamy mash and fluffy white rice.
The chicken dish was equally, if not more delectable. The tomato and pepper sauce was wonderfully sweet with large pieces of onion and fresh red and green peppers to add to the flavour. The side of mixed vegetables was well cooked – although nothing out of the ordinary – and the mash just was as pleasant as with the first dish.
To satisfy our sweet-tooth, we chose chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream to end our meal. You can imagine our joy when it turned out to be literally a small, sticky cake, perfect for sharing, covered in chocolate sauce.
Taking into account the business of this place at the weekend, we were continuously impressed with the swift and polite service and thoroughly enjoyed our large meal. In our opinion, it's a great place to go with the family and good value for money.
Located in Sheikh Zayed’s Tivoli Dome, La Pizza Alforno is another Cairo restaurant claiming to offer pizza at its most authentic. One of the other, slightly peculiar, reasons for the restaurant’s increasing popularity is the novel half-moon shaped pizza on offer.
Bringing Italian tradition to Tivoli Dome, Alforno's wooden chairs, wood-fired oven and stereotypically Italian, red and white tablecloths bring an air of authenticity to the place. While the venue is split into an outdoor and an indoor section, the indoor area seems a little tight in space. Taking precedence over seating, the wood-fired oven and pizza bar are placed proudly in the centre of the restaurant.
Despite directly overlooking the street, the outdoor area is much more spacious, and being located far from all the other cramped cafes, the restaurant benefits from a secluded, private ambience that you rarely get at these types of strip-mall-food-courts.
Our meal begun in pleasant style, when we were served a complimentary dish; three small slices of garlic bread, topped off with olive oil. Alongside the bread came two different dips – tuna and mayonnaise paste, and olive paste mixed with anchovies. Although this kept us busy while we waited for our appetiser, the traditionally salty olive paste and anchovies dip was just that little too bit salty.
We began our meal with the Insalata Di Racula (39LE); a mixture of green leaves, apples, walnuts and raspberry lime dressing. The Di Racula was simple and small in portion, making for a light and basic starter, before moving on to the main course.
As expected from a restaurant claiming to be authentically Italian, Alforno’s menu offers a variety of pizzas and pastas. We ordered the Alfredo Con Polo pasta (46LE) and the half-moon Funghi pizza (49LE). The pizza was immediately favoured over the pasta; while the Con Polo’s creamy mushroom sauce was lighter than most white sauces, the chicken was dry and over cooked.
On the other hand, the uniquely shaped half-moon Funghi pizza was crisp, boasted just the right amount and blend of cheese and a rich, homemade tomato sauce, all topped off with mushroom and infused with oregano.
While the dessert menu was full of inviting options, we decided to go for the Focaccia Alla Nutella (38LE). Baked with the same pizza dough and covered in Nutella chocolate, the simple, sweet dish was perfectly balanced in flavour thanks to a sensibly modest use of the rich chocolate spread.
Though the food was far from spectacular, La Pizza Alforno offer a creative, if superfluous, twist to their pizzas, complete with original homemade flavours in an authentic pizzeria atmosphere.