Pepenero: Cairo’s Best Kept Italian Dining Secret
18 Baghdad St., Korba
On arriving to our review of Pepenero’s in Korba, we were a little hesitant to enter – even questioning whether we had the right address. Located in one of the less attractive old buildings on Baghdad Street, something seemed a little off.
Entering what only looks like an apartment entrance on the first floor, we quickly realised that we were wrong. The place has a comfortably large indoor area with comfy upholstered chairs and wooden tables, while the outdoor area, on the other hand, had a total of eight or nine wooden tables with beach-like cushioned wooden chairs overlooking the street.
On each wall, you could find greens coming out of pipes, lamps put inside jars and hanging picture frames of Italian architecture.
Seconds after we were seated, we were handed the menu, which, unless you are an Italian cuisine expert, is a little confusing, despite being written in both Italian and English. Needles to say, we needed assistance and the waiter was more than happy to guide us through.
The menu boasts all sorts of Italian eats from pasta, pizza, fish platters, beef and chicken dishes. The staff was extremely helpful and eventually we went for pizza Mama Giustina (80LE) and Filetto di salmone con farfalle (160LE) for our mains.
Soon after placing our order, we were served with complementary Italian bruschetta. With crispy Tuscan bread topped with a big amount of chopped fresh tomatoes mixed with olive oil, salt, chopped basil and garlic, Pepenero’s bruschetta would make any Italian kitchen proud.
The Pizza Mama Giustina arrived a few minutes later. Although essentially a tuna pizza, the real surprise was the type of Italian buffalo mozzarella, which was creamier and more buttery than expected, without being gooey, a la fresh mozzarella. The only other topping was onions and there was little tomato sauce, but it was overall a generously portioned and satisfying pizza.
Our second dish brought together brought together salmon and farfalle pasta; the latter was cooked al dente and smothered in a thick, white salmon cream sauce, but was under-seasoned. There were no problems with the seasoning of the salmon, though, which was extremely tender, full of flavour and boasted a delicious reddish-orange colour.
Our sweet tooth was acting up and between some interesting desserts such as Nutella calzone (100LE), Pizza Dolce (80 LE) and Chocolate Salami with ice cream (75LE), we opted for an Italian classic: the tiramisu (80LE).
‘Heavenly’ is what best word to use in describing Pepenero’s sweet and creamy tiramisu. Served in a cup with coffee-flavoured ladyfingers resting at the bottom, the mascarpone cheese mixture had a spot on consistency with an extremely light yet creamy texture. Garnished with cocoa powder, the dessert was the highlight of our meal. Ending this lovely hot summer evening with a fresh lemon mint juice (34LE), which was the perfect balance of sweet and bitter flavours.
Despite initial hesitancy, from the moment we stepped inside the restaurant until the moment we left, we enjoyed every single second of our evening. With excellent service, well-executed dishes and noticeably spotless cleanliness, Pepenero is possibly Cairo’s best kept Italian secret.