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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.
We often lament the state of Italian cuisine in Cairo restaurants. While it is of course in no short supply across both specialist Italian restaurants and other eateries that carry the maddeningly vague ‘international cuisine’ banner, few places in the capital deliver when it comes to authenticity.
Located in Downtown Cairo, Grazie, located on the second floor of the Hilton Ramses Annex, makes a good go of it. Despite being in the centre of Cairo, the restaurant has a rustic elegance about it; modestly chic décor; delicate displays of spaghetti alongside cooking oils and musical instruments, are as charming as the waiters who deliver excellent service.
There is a menu outside the restaurant so guests can look before entering and it displays many of Italy’s most iconic dishes such as Lasagne, Spaghetti Bolognaise and Penne Arrabiata.
After being seated, we were given a complimentary ‘shot’ – a green, mint-flavoured hot beverage – then, but a few moments later, the waiter arrived with another complimentary snack; a small plate of black pepper crackers with an additional tangy, tomato sauce.
For starters we ordered the Italian Salad (33.25LE), which consisted of a generous bed of fresh lettuce topped with chicken breast, tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers drizzled with an Italian dressing. It was delightfully fresh and the dressing gave it a nice, aromatic kick.
To follow we opted for Spaghetti Bolognaise (33.25LE) which was very generous in portion and very nicely presented, too. The edge of the plate was decorated with fresh finely-chopped parsley, framing the mound of spaghetti and meat/tomato sauce, and garnished with cherry tomatoes, a cracker and asparagus. The addition of grated-parmesan cheese topped off what was a top-notch tangy tomato sauce and basil, though the meat was meager in amount
Italian tradition dictates that one finishes a meal with a coffee or espresso and Grazie have provided a large variety of coffees on their menu, though there are also a range of soft drinks, cocktails and hot chocolate. We ordered a small espresso which was strong and robust and the perfect finish to this heavy meal.
Despite advertising itself as an Italian restaurant, Grazie also serves a large variety of Middle Eastern dishes such as Shish Tawook and Kofta with Rice.
But despite this, its location and its relative modesty, Grazie offers a pleasantly simple dining experience complete with good food at affordable prices.