Best Italian in Cairo at Trattoria in Zamalek
Trattoria is a very good Italian restaurant, and very atypical for Cairo. It is not a chain and it even serves wine and pork products! Though it is quite expensive, you could get out of there for about 120LE (about $21) for two if you just have a pasta each. Entrees are bout 80LE. We had the carpaccio, which was quite good, tomatoes and mozzarella, which was adequate, and a minestrone, which was just so-so. The entrees were a veal in a putanesca type sauce, which was very tasty, gnocchi in a tomato sauce, which were surprisingly light and flavorful, and a sauteed sea bass, which was quite tasty. All the ingredients were real and fresh -- no canned cheese or the ubiquitous "beef bacon" that is so prevalent in other Italian restaurants in Egypt. The ambiance is lovely too. Simple beige walls with wooden framed mirrors and no glitz what so ever.
Roxlet, thanks for your various postings on restaurants in Cairo. Where exactly is Trattoria? We'll be in Cairo for 1 week in December and we should make a point to eat there. Although we are normally very adventurous diners, I have heard more negative than positive about dining in Cairo and I am - for the first time in my life - planning to eat almost all meals at our hotel! (staying at the Cairo Marriott, fyi) We were looking forward to Abou El Sid (no longer - read your review), Al-Rafai Kebab (probably opens way past our bedtime) and the Naguib Mahfouz cafe in Khan Al-Khalili. Any other suggestions or comments? Thanks.
I think the Marriott is right here in Zamalek, so Trattoria shouldn't be too far. You can take a taxi from your hotel, but you might want to see about engaging a car and driver to get you about. Cairo traffic is breathtakingly intense and crazy, and takes some getting used to. Is this a pleasure or a business trip? I can recommend a guide if you'd like.
Cairo is definitely not a foodie destination, sad to say, and there seems to be very little information about restaurants either here on Chowhound or any where else, which is why I've been posting. Truly, people just don't seem to care very much about food. As for eating all your meals at the hotel, I think that you would be disappointed in your experience here despite the at times mediocre food. Also, though I haven't eaten at the Marriott, prices at the large hotels tend to be very, very expensive, and I don't think that the food is that much better than what you get elsewhere. That being said, I have limited experience with hotel dining. I once ate at the Buddah Bar, which I think is in the Soffitel, and the prices were breathtaking. The food was pretty good, though.
One thing to bear in mind is that Cairo is very much a late-night town, so many restaurants don't get revved up until 10PM or later. You really should have a meal at Le Pasha, which is one of the restaurant boats that are moored in the Nile, quite near your hotel. Le Pasha has about 12 restaurants covering all kinds of foods -- from Egyptian, to steak, to French, Italian and Asian. We actually do take out from there frequently and the food is reliably good. We ate there once last year and the place was empty until we left at about 11PM! Another place to definitely try is The Egyptian Pancake House, which is in the Khan, not far fro the Mahfouz Cafe. They serve Fatir, a kind of Egyptian pancake, which truthfully, has been the big foodie discovery in Egypt. The cheese one was fantastic as were the sweet dessert ones. Try some of each and share. It is worth a special trip. I haven't tries the Naguib Mahfouz cafe, though it looks lovely -- I did read his Cairo trilogy though -- all 1200 pages! Do you watch Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations? These are a couple of the restaurants he went to, though I haven't tried them yet:
Farahat Restaurant: At Farahat, Anthony Bourdain enjoys a local delicacy of Cairo -- pigeon.
Address: 126 Azhar Street, Al-Hussein
BTW, if you do eat pigeon, which is the national dish, you eat the whole thing! Bones and all!
Abu Tarek Koshary Restaurant:Koshary is most accurately described as Cairanese fast food -- a dish of rice, noodles, spices, and fried onions. Anthony Bourdain samples this local treat at Abu Tarek.
Address: 16 Maarouf and Shamplion Street, Wust al Balad, Cairo
Koshary is something you definitely should try. I think it is quite good, especially with some hot sauce, and verrry filling.
Make sure that you bring some acidophilus tablets with you. They can help against Tut's Trots, but the biggest tip I can get you is to get a pack of Antinol when you get here. Most medicines are available over the counter here (excepting narcotics) and Antinol, at 5LE (less than $1 a pack) is a really great remedy for travelers tummy. All the pharmacists speak English and are very knowledgeable. It is an intestinal disinfectant and much better than the Imodium that everyone brings since it goes right to the cause. It is very safe -- even babies and pregnant women can take it.
We've spent a total of over three months here, and we are still discovering new things, but nothing to convince us that it is a foodie destination. We will be spending the year here this year, and I am looking forward to getting my own kitchen and exploring food more from that perspective! Anyway, I am happy to answer all your questions about Cairo -- food or otherwise! BTW, a week seems like a long time just to see Cairo's sights, if that is why you're here.
You just gave me a TON of useful information, thanks! I did see the Bourdain episode on Cairo (watched it several times, in fact) and was thinking about the pigeon restaurant since we do like squab. Do you know anyone who has eaten at Farahat? I recall that Bourdain was there in the daytime, which is good for us since we probably would be in that neighborhood during the day. I wonder if the stuffing had nuts. My son is allergic to nuts so we have to be very careful, especially when traveling in countries where we don't speak the language. The kebab place he went to was Al-Rifai. I wanted to try that place too but I think that it probably opens late at night. I think I will ask my guides to call up and get some information before I arrive.
I've found 2 guides for our time in Cairo. One is a serious Egyptologist who we'll use when we visit the pyramids and "intellectual/historical places" like Islamic Cairo. The other is a young Egyptian woman who speaks English. She'll accompany us whenever we eat in places where English is not usually spoken. I was thinking of asking her to go to the pigeon restaurant with us. I've read about PASHA and I'm sure we'll be fine to eat there on our own.
At the Marriott Hotel, we're taking an Executive level room, which includes light breakfast, snacks and dinner served on the executive level. I've never felt the need to indulge in a luxury like business/executive level accomodations at a 5-star hotel but I think in Cairo, it will be very useful not to have to worry about eating. Limiting the number and complexity of the meals we eat outside the hotel will hopefully also limit the possibility of Tut's Trot (many thanks for the info about acidophilus and Antinol - I had been researching this online and your comments confirmed my findings). I've read that some travelers have even gotten sick eating hotel food so I'm prepared for that too.
A week is a long time to be in Cairo, I agree. We're actually going to Luxor and Alexandria too. In Alexandria, I'd like to eat at the restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel. It's probably super-expensive but I've heard that it's quite good and has a beautiful view of the ocean.
My 10 yo chowhound son says, "We're going to Cairo to go on diet". Sad, but maybe true. It will be the first time that we've travelled and not made plans to eat. Last week we were in New York City and we enjoyed meals at Mario Batali's Lupa, Morimoto and Le Bernardin (the chef there made a guest appearance on an episode of "No Reservations").
Thanks again, roxlet, for all your recommendations. Please keep posting your restaurant reviews of Cairo (good and bad). By the way, I hear the restaurant in Al-Ahzar (spelling?) Park is quite good.
We just had a really good meal last night in a place called Casper's & Gambini's inside the Nile City Towers, which is essentially a large office building. The place looked like a coffee shop, but it had a surprisingly large menu that spanned everything from breakfast to dessert. I had a fabulous chicken under a brick with red bliss potatoes and string beans, and my son had a tenderloin with a rice they called risotto, but wasn't really. It was what I would term an American style meal. We were taken there by a friend who used to work int he building. Inside was a large multi-plex and well as a Starbucks (not that common here!) and a fantastic nut shop among other stores and kiosks. It was pretty antiseptic -- like an American office building -- but after a month in Cairo and six weeks traveling, we were up for that!
Yes, my British friend had lunch at therestaurant in the Al-Ahzar park and she said that it was quite good. We haven't eaten there since we mainly hang around Zamalek at night.
We had quite an experience the other night. We were taken by our driver (who is on loan fromt he tour guide we use since it's slow during Ramadan) to a very Egyptian area called Imbaba. THIS is the read Cairo and we ate at a little kebab place having delicious chicken, skirt steak and kofta, as well as a kind of salad frequently referred to as "Egyptian Salad," which is essentially some roughly chopped raw vegetables dressed with herbs and lime juice. We took a real chance eating there, but had no ill-effects whatsoever, and really loved the down-home atmosphere. My son's coach was horrified that we had eaten in a restaurant in Imbaba, but most upper-class Egyptians would turn their noses up at a place like that as well as Old Maadi, which is where the driver lives. There we saw -- and smelled-- the most delicious rotisserie chickens.
We have lunch a lot at Hardee's. It is really pretty good when you've had it with local grub!
The main thing is avoiding the water. It's not that it's bad, it's just that you're not used to it. That means no ice and brushing your teeth with bottled water. We have never gotten really sick -- just some runs here and there -- but if you're really worried, bring some cipro.
We got home tomorrow night, and then back in late September, but we will be living in an apartment in Mohandeseen then, and thankfully cooking most of our meals.