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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.
Few cuisines are more saturated on the Cairo dining scene than Italian cuisine – Lebanese is a strong contender, but it’s Italian that, more often than not, is quit divisive when it comes to that tricky little thing called authenticity. Some restaurants are able to capture what the cuisine is about, while others fail entirely.
Cairo 360 had previously paid a visit to La Pizza Alforno’s Sheikh Zayed branch and the reviewer largely enjoyed their time there, but, in our experience, that doesn’t even begin to guarantee that its Citystars branch would be as successful – consistency is another field that few restaurants maintain.
Sporting the same redbrick oven, the decor is definitely part of the restaurant’s highlights, especially when you consider it a sanctuary of sorts from the hustle and bustle of the mall. The staff were immediately very helpful, and polite, upon entry, showing us to our seats and placing menus on our table with the type of subtle urgency that any growling, hungry diner needs.
We opted for a Mussels Trio (55LE) to start off the meal – mussels in a tomato sauce with garlic. While it was on the greasy side, it was so flavourful that we’d have been very happy with more.
Looking for some kind of lubricant for the carb-heavy meal ahead, we ordered Lemon and Mint (16LE) and Orange (16LE) juices – both were fresh and flavourful.
The menu doesn’t offer a lot of variety when it comes to pastas and we opted for the Shrimp Fettuccini (62LE). Though the pasta was cooked well – something that is by no means a certainty across Cairo – and it was all seasoned well, it was everything else that let the dish down. What was meant to be a creamy sauce was actually very runny in consistency, while the shrimp was cooked unevenly.
Hoping the pizza could salvage the situation, the Mama Mia Pizza (55LE) disappointed, too. The promised pepperoni was scarce – as was the mozzarella – and although the base was cooked to pleasing balance of crunch-and-chew, the addition of cheddar cheese did the pizza no favours; it dried and hardened to an almost waxy consistency fairly quickly and, if its use is the cause of having such little mozzarella, was just unnecessary.
Hoping to end on a high note with Crème Brule (26LE), the dessert disappointed, too. The best part of a Crème Brule, hands down, is the layer of caramelised sugar on top – call us pretentious, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about cracking through the brittle layer. Unfortunately, however, there was no such satisfaction; the top had barely been kissed by a flame and the rest was ever so slightly undercooked.
It’s unfortunate that, at the time of our visit, much of the food disappointed. La Pizza Alforno has all the ingredients to be a top Italian restaurant in Cairo, but lack of attention to detail derailed any hope of that.