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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 think we can all agree that Italian cuisine has an uncanny ability to bring jot to those who eat it; with pizza, pasta, risotto and exquisite breads, what’s not to love? The amounts of Italian restaurants in Cairo continue to grow and one of the newest competitors in the battle is Il Loft - an eatery whose claims of authenticity come largely from the their commitment to using imported goods.
Located inside Arkan Mall in Sheikh Zayed, Il Loft stands out with an industrial and rustic interior design that will definitely grab your attention. Everything from the hanging light fixtures, to the pizza oven and brick-walling, to little decorative details such as quirkily arranged rolling pins and cheese wheels, come together for an excellent ambiance. Besides the rather unattractive chairs, it all captures a sophisticated yet casual Italian atmosphere. As for the outdoor area, it’ll be great for an early lunch with summer ahead.
While browsing the menu, the waiter arrived with complimentary Italian flatbread and a small plate of shredded parmesan cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s not everyone’s cup-of-tea but for those that like sweet, tart and salty flavours together, it’s a nice opener.
For our appetisers, we went with Parmigiana Di Melanzane (59LE) – a dish that brings together delicious layers grilled eggplant, melted buffalo mozzarella and parmesan cheese, all topped with flavourful tomato sauce and fresh basil. The eggplant absorbed all the delicious and delicate flavours, but sadly the bottom layer was slightly burnt and had a bitter taste.
Moving to the first main, we started with the Costoletta Di Vitello Alla Milanese (95LE) – a Milanese-style veal cutlet. Served with perfectly fried garlic potato cubes, the breaded veal cutlet was topped with fresh arugula, cherry tomato and cheese shavings. The veal was, unfortunately, a bit dry and overcooked, while also lacking flavour, plus the crust wasn’t as crispy as we expected.
We couldn’t visit an Italian place without trying pizza, so we went with the Funghi Pizza (55LE). With its puffy edge and crispy yet chewy centre, the dough alone deserves a standing ovation. We were similarly pleased with the toppings, as the tomato sauce was well-seasoned and the kitchen was generous with the fresh mushroom and fior di latte mozzarella.
We finished the meal with classic Italian dessert, Tiramisu (42LE). Served in a V glass, the tiramisu consists of super creamy mascarpone mixture, with a spot-on amount of sugar, and ladyfinger biscuits soaked in coffee. Sadly, it was too soggy and almost dissolved into a musch, while the ratio of the mascarpone mixture to the ladyfingers was off. Poor execution aside, the flavours individually were out of this world.
Overall, our visit to IL LOFT was just a little short of being great; the ambiance was remarkable and the service was terrific, but several small-to-unforgivable mistakes in the execution let down the experience at the time of our visit.