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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.
Founded in 1993, Cortigiano could well be considered a pioneer in Italian cuisine on Cairo’s restaurant scene. While there are other more, what you might consider, authentic Italian restaurants around these days, its versatile menu – anchored by several Italian classics – has cemented its position as a go-to favourite for a date night, or a friends/family outing during the weekend.
Cortigiano has preserved a rustic Italian ambiance throughout the years in all of its branches; brick walls, old metallic utensils, dim lighting and cosy atmosphere – none more so than at its Heliopolis branch.
Going through the menu during out last visit, we opted for Salmone Affumicato E Gamberi (83.93LE) as an appetiser – platter of smoked salmon with capers, shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, boiled shrimps smothered in shrimp cocktail sauce. The entire ensemble was full of bright, fresh flavours, but the amount of sauce overpowered, the shrimps and anything else you dipped into it.
Shortly after, our main courses arrived; Scaloppine Cordon Bleu (89.95LE) and Casserolla Cortigiano (95.95LE).
Served as two veal steaks covered in mozzarella and tomatoes, and stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, and roast beef served, the cordon bleu was well-cooked, fried evenly, with oozing cheese and mushrooms inside. Overall, it had balanced flavours, but it needed an extra seasoning kick, the roast beef was barely discernible and the sautéed vegetables were poorly cut and undercooked.
Our second dish, unfortunately, fared worse. The Casseroula Cortigiano is essentially diced veal and beef, served in gravy and topped with mozazarella cheese – a fine combination on paper, but despite being generous in portion and overall being cooked well, there were no real standout flavours and it soon became very one-note.
Our choice for dessert was the Apple Tart (41.95LE), essentially a slice of pie stuffed with cinnamon-soaked apple pieces and accompanied with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Though we had expectations of a warm apple tart, the tart was cold and tasted noticeably un-fresh.
We’ve been to Cortigiano many times and, personally, will continue to do so, because we are, of course, creature of habit. You know what you’re getting when you go there, but can it still be considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the city? On this visit, no.