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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.
More often than not, Italian food in Egyptian restaurants ends up only remotely resembling the real thing; bready pizzas, pastas with questionable sauces and caprese with the wrong cheese. We did, however, manage to find one that ticked all the right boxes for us when it came to the authenticity of its dishes in New Cairo: Fratelli La Bufala.
Overlooking Cairo Festival City’s dancing fountain, the spacious restaurant offers both outdoor and indoor seating; both of which are equally tempting. The indoor décor is Mediterranean-inspired - more Spanish than Italian - with soft lighting and wood and iron panels that gave it a modern, yet nostalgic, air. We opted for the outdoor seating.
The menu was filled with pages of traditional Italian treats. The appetisers included some Italian salads, including La Bufalata and La Mozzata, which is fit for a large group wanting to share, as it features a large 500 gram piece of Mozzarella cheese. We also spotted some Bruschetta and Carpaccio. The main courses ranged from pastas and pizzas, to meat-based dishes, Risottos and, surprisingly, burgers.
As soon as we placed our orders, our table was garnished with a hefty bread basket. We immediately started munching on the doughy delights and used the olive oil and balsamic vinegar already. Our food arrived a little while later and to say it was pure eye candy is an understatement.
Our Caprese (65LE) - layers of tomato slices and mozzarella cheese sprinkled with basil and oregno - was delightfully light with, perhaps, some of the most delicious tasting mozzarella cheese we have ever had in Egypt. Our just-out-of-the-oven Neapolitan pizzas were just exactly that; thin-crusted, covered in real mozzarella cheese and baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. We had opted for the Margherita DOP (67LE), a simple, traditional margherita pizza topped with some porcini mushrooms. We also went for the Diavola (60LE), which is topped with beef salami and fiery spices, which was pleasingly spicy and absolutely scrumptious.
Our pizzas were so dense and satisfying that we couldn’t even glance at the dessert menu, which featured quite an array of alluring options. We spotted some tiramisu, cheese cake, fruit platters, graffa, apple tarte and ice cream.
Fratelli La Bufala satisfied all our Italian cravings with its quality dishes; we fell in love with their mozzarella cheese and mouth-watering pizza dough. Our waiter was exceptionally helpful and quite fun to talk to and the whole place was impeccable. Sure, we paid a little extra for a simple salad, but it was absolutely worth every penny. Next time, though, we’re leaving room for dessert.