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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.
Sometimes you just need wholesome, dependable food – and there’s little you can depend on, when it comes to dining in Cairo. It doesn’t matter which cuisine, just one that you know you love and can have repeatedly. For this reviewer, that happens to be Italian, and while this is a cuisine we’ve discussed at length as the single most badly executed in Egypt, there are a few gems out there who get it.
One of these is a small diner on Road 231 in Degla Maadi called La Rosa. With a very casual atmosphere and framed photos of Italy combined with wine bottles covered in wax to set the décor, La Rosa is laidback and puts the focus on the food. The lighting is dim and when there’s music, it’s suitably low, only lingering in the background.
A waiter will greet you at the door when you walk in and set menus at the table for you. The prices at La Rosa vary greatly. On one side of the spectrum, you have very affordable pizza and pasta (27LE40LE), though on the other end, the main courses range between 75LE and 95LE.
We decided on the Pizza Funghi (32LE) as well as Tortellini (34LE) and Farfalle la Rosa (35LE). From previous experience we knew the Tortellini isn’t as filling as the other dishes and would serve better as an appetiser.
As per custom at La Rosa, a complimentary Bruschetta appetiser is served before the food. The soft in the centre, crunchy around the edges bread worked very well with the topping of seasoned and diced tomatoes.
The pizza at La Rosa is one of our favourites across Egypt for two reasons. The crust is the perfect thinness, crunchiness and doesn’t flap – and they don’t charge you 60LE for it.
Our Funghi Pizza was exactly that; the tomato sauce was delicious, the cheese wasn’t overpowering and the fresh mushrooms were the cherry on top of a very delicious cake.
Unfortunately, the pasta didn’t hold up as well. The Tortellini, one of the hardest to execute because of a specific folding technique to the pasta, came undone on our plate. While the ricotta cheese and spinach stuffing was flavourful and seasoned well, the cream sauce was a bit in terms of combining with the other flavours.
With the Farfalle la Rosa, consisting of pasta with pink sauce and cooked smoked salmon, was perfectly cooked and tasted fresh. The salmon wasn’t as plentiful as we had hoped, but delicious nonetheless.
While we may remember La Rosa as slightly better than what we experienced, at least in the pasta department, the pizzas were still up to standard and the restaurant prioritises the quality of the food over the shallow pizzazz that so many other restaurants seem to want to rely on.