Cortigiano: Big Italian Fare in Dokki
Italian restaurants in Cairo are a dime a dozen and even when there is no specialised ‘ristorante’ around, most regular eateries feature pizza and pasta as a staple on their menu. Despite that, good affordable Italian food remains a bit of a holy grail in this crazy city, as most medium-priced restaurants attempt to satisfy their customers with uninspired, bland favourites of the Italian cuisine.
Cortigiano is a chain of Italian restaurants, with branches in Dokki, Nasr City, Heliopolis, Maadi and even one in Alexandria. Their branch in Dokki is a stone’s throw away from the Shooting Club on Michel Bakhoum and can easily be spotted by the leafy green plants outside and the soft yellow awnings.
Inside, the décor is merry; the faux-brick panelled walls are plastered with kitschy knickknacks, such as a violin, a guitar, a life buoy, an antique gramophone and many, many picture frames with old black and white photos of Italy. The menu boasts a picture of the Coliseum in Rome, too; clearly, the designers went out of their way to get that ‘authentic’ Italian feel. The seating comprises of heavy wooden tables, of which some have sturdy wooden chairs, while others have couches and comfortable reading chairs.
The service at Cortigiano is prompt and at any given time, there are many waiters bussing around. Even at the busiest of times, we had no issue getting someone’s attention and our glasses of mineral water were continuously topped up.
We would advise you to go to Cortigiano on a very empty stomach, as their servings are generally massive. The insalata greca, Greek salad (19.95LE), could easily have served as an entrée for a table of four. Unfortunately, it was a little dry, but the vegetables were certainly fresh and the feta hit the right level of density and flavour.
Even the soups could have been served as full meals, along with the croutons and the garlic bread sticks that came with our order. The creme di pomodoro tomato soup (14.95LE) was thick, full of flavour, yet a bit flat, while the zuppa di cipolle onion soup (15.95LE) had a far too overwhelming taste – and smell – of onion and was slightly watery
Pizzas at Cortigiano are of the thin, crisp base variety, but the pizza margherita (29.95LE) we ordered was a bit too oily. The shrimp and calamari in the spaghetti alla marinara (54.95LE) were a little overcooked, but the spaghetti was perfectly al dente. The penne al quatro formaggi (31.95LE), meanwhile, was just an overload of generic cheese flavour and we doubt there was any actual parmezan or gorgonzola used in it. One dish that was curiously missing from the menu was a pasta Arrabiata.
For dessert, we ordered the chocolate cake (an absolute steal at 14.95LE), which again, was a massive serving, but rather tasty. The mound of chocolate cake was draped with hot chocolate fudge that nicely compensated the dryness of the cake. The fudge was very heavy, but not too sweet.
Overall, the food at Cortigiano is decent, but alas, nothing to write home about. One thing that really got us excited about this restaurant, however, was the hilarious selection of music – Cortigiano’s playlist is the epitome of tackiness.