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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.
Despite Egypt’s maniacal love for pizza, it’s still – along with many other Italian specialities – one of the most consistently mistreated dishes amongst Cairo restaurants. In fairness, though, the last few years has seen a rise in pizza specialists – Pizza Mia, Vinny’s Pizzeria, et al – that have tried valiantly, with wavering success, to bring authenticity to it.
The latest to try its hand at the pizza game is delivery-only Pizzinia. After stumbling across its modest, and slightly crude, Facebook page, perusing the menus revealed that the Maadi-based kitchen also churns out traditional pastas as well as some unusual and acutely non-Italian items like Chicken-Shrimp Cajun and Mexican Chicken pastas.
The pizzas come in three sizes; we opted for a Large BBQ Chicken Pizza (40LE), as well as a Chicken Alfredo Pasta (27LE). We were told the food would arrive in twenty minutes – a rather ambitious promise by any standard. As expected, it didn’t arrive in twenty minutes, but thirty – which in fairness is still pretty fast.
The food arrived very neatly wrapped and in practical packaging. The pasta was served in a compartmented box that has separate areas for the pasta, extra sauce and pieces of garlic bread, which comes as standard with all pasta orders.
The Chicken Alfredo Pasta, topped with slices of chicken breast, parmesan cheese, mushrooms and cream sauce, was quite delicious. The portion of chicken was generous, seasoned perfectly and cooked well, while the amount of cheese was proportionate to the rest of the food. Our only problem was the sauce was a bit scarce, as well as being thin and watery.
The BBQ Chicken Pizza, topped with chicken, bell peppers, olives, mozzarella cheese, BBQ sauce and a special Pizzinia marinara sauce, tasted every bit as good as it looked. With an authentic, thin crust and a consistent layer of delicious, molten cheese, the combination of flavours was a simple one, but a satisfying one nonetheless.
While the very notion of BBQ Chicken leans more towards American-style rather than authentic Italian, Pizzinia can still lay claim to making the misleadingly simple dough-sauce-cheese combo that is pizza. The prices are pretty reasonable, the delivery time is fast and the staff are pleasant and efficient over the phone – they even called after the food was delivered to make sure was ok, welcoming our comment about the pasta sauce.