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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Lino's: Straightforward, Nile-Side Sohour in Zamalek
The lack of decent river-side restaurants in Cairo always astounds us; it appears that many establishments rely on the view to do all the hard work. Italian eatery, Lino's, at Zamalek's Club33 seems to follow suit with an incredible view, contrasted with shabby decor. Fortunately their Ramadan decorations - jolly khameya print table cloths and lanterns - took some of the attention away from the otherwise weathered furniture.
The minimum charge of 75LE per person can be made up from either their al a carte choices, or their Ramadan set menu. Their sohour menu (75LE) is a simple, traditional Egyptian, six-dish ensemble, with a couple of variations for each dish whilst their usual menu boasts salads and sandwiches to meat dishes, pizza and pasta.
We ordered one set sohour menu complete with Greek salad, cheese and tomato, Alexandrian foul, tehina, taameya and an omelette as well as a lasagne (45LE) and a pollo parmaggiano (69LE). Disappointingly, the lasagne fell short of our expectations by lacking an authentic, rich tomato taste. Likewise, the chicken in the parmaggiano was slightly rubbery with a potent cheese topping, and came with a side of undercooked pasta rolled in an unspectacular white sauce.
The generously sized sohour dishes quickly filled up our table and eased our dissatisfaction with simple, pleasant tasting food. The greek salad was fresh and crunchy, with a decent amount of bitter feta cheese and herbs, whilst the tehina and cheese and tomato paste were creamy with the latter being a sweeter dip for the average-at-best beladi bread. Our Alexandrian foul was a tasty base for our own seasoning, the taameya was both crispy and soft at the same time and the omelette was effortlessly flavoursome.
Not included in the sohour menu price, we ordered one sweet, strawberry slushy as well as an unsuspectingly milky cantaloupe juice which would be better grouped under the term milkshake rather than fruit juice. Several different sodas (11LE-25LE) were delivered too, served chilled with glasses of ice.
For dessert we ordered one chocolate cake (26.50LE) and a strawberry cheesecake (32LE). However, soon after ordering, we cancelled the chocolate cake to which we were told even if we don't eat it, there was no way of taking it off the bill. Despite the dispute that followed, we moved on to the strawberry cheesecake which was delectable and deliciously velvety but a little thin on the biscuit base, although that didn't matter much.
Lino's offer an uncomplicated, no-frills Sohour experience with reasonably priced, simple food options and a beautiful, breezy Nile view.
Italian restaurants in Cairo often fall victim to the Americanisation of the dish; the original recipe calls for a thin spread of dough and a fine layer of mozzarella cheese, and most who claim to mirror this authenticity often simply don’t.
As pizza tradition dictates, Crust Pizzeria provides delivery, although nothing beats the experience of dining at the restaurant itself. The decor is casually chic, with an interesting seating variety; aside from the solid oak tables with matching padded seats, there’s also an outdoors area to eat in the sunshine on picnic tables and benches.
Those that bring their children along and treat them to a serving of bunny shaped pizza (26LE) or mini spaghetti (24LE) will be glad to know there’s a playground to let off their hyperactivity, especially if they’ve been given a taste of the sugar rush inducing Nutella calzone (23LE).
The service is hasty without sacrificing quality; at a relatively quiet time, the staff can serve up your order in around twenty minutes.
We particularly enjoyed their arugula salad (31LE), which sees caramelised onions, feta cheese and candied walnuts accompanying the fresh leafy greens. While the inclusion of both walnuts and onions may lead one to assume that the salad would be sweet, the salad is seasoned perfectly to balance, especially with the flavour combinations of the cubes of lightly salted feta cheese and the zesty vinaigrette.
Crust proudly distinguishes themselves from other pizzerias through their use of a wood fired grill. Lack of exposure to the scorching temperatures of a gas born flame saves the dough from developing a hard consistency. Combined with a fine choice in mozzarella cheese, not only do the pizzas taste delicious, but they have a distinguished texture too. It came as no surprise that the seafood pizza (45LE), topped with prawns, calamari and a special plum tomato sauce, boasts a fabulous flavour of the sea.
We also enjoyed a Blanco (36LE) from their special pizzas section; a three cheese blend along with more arugula and caramelised onion, smothered with pesto and tomato sauces. While it was a little on the salty side in comparison with the seafood pizza the toppings and creative combinations meshed together to provide a delicious combination.
Crust provides deliciously authentic, Italian tasting pizza with generous portion sizes, making it a contender in the always hotly-contested perennial ‘best pizza in Cairo’ arguments we have so often in our office.