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Review: La Trattoria Italian restaurant in Zamalek

Seemingly Italian in all aspects, the plates are tasty but fall short of authentic Italian cuisine

Dahlia Ferrer, Sunday 20 Nov 2011
La Trattoria Italian restaurant, Zamalek
La Trattoria's apple pie with the restaurant as the backdrop
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Sarita Marchesi is half Dutch, half Italian, but her Italian upbringing takes over her right-brained artsy side. An actress and opera singer, she even speaks Italian when she speaks English: melodically emphasising the last syllable. The fact that she also cooks and has invited me for delicious home-cooked dinners made her the perfect companion and critique for La Trattoria, which has all the look of an Italian restaurant: small, cozy; dim, yellow lighting; white walls with wooden accents and beams.

In an Italian restaurant, of course, we start off with a glass of wine. Sherizade and Omar Khayyam are the only inexpensive (LE35) by-the-glass options, with an entire bottle running into hundreds of pounds.

This restaurant has a reputation for great flavour and a perfectly chic and calm ambiance, so Ahram Online decided to see if all the Italian veneer has some meat to it, with our Italian guest, Sarita Marchesi as the deciding vote.

After the wine, we opened with a couple of appetisers: Vitello Tonato and Carpaccio de Manzo (both at LE49).

Appetisers
They serve the Vitello Tonato as a large plate of shallow tuna mayonnaise with thin slices of roasted veal. The veal is not salty and the tuna-mayo is certainly a unique treat. To give it a kick they sprinkle a spattering of capers, which are not integrated into the sauce, so they are easy to pick off (many don’t like capers).

The Carpaccio de Manzo is only slightly less memorable, but still highly recommended. Again, the meat: the beef carpaccio, is, thankfully and refreshingly, not salty. The pine nuts add something special, and who doesn’t like green pesto?

Between the wine, the ambiance, the interesting appetizers, everyone is enjoying and we’re looking forward to the main course. Sarita gave us a thumbs up.

Main course
Happily sharing, we ordered a spinach ravioli (LE49), seafood risotto (roughly LE60) and steak (roughly LE80).

The steak was well-seasoned, not overdone and all-in-all was high quality, although a meat devourer might be unsatisfied with the small to medium portion.

As for the other plates, Sarita noted that the rice used for the risotto was not authentic and, in fact, was severely overcooked — apparently the cooks have never heard the expression al dente.

Furthermore, although many people usually say “bring on the extra sauce,” for Italian tastes, the globby sauce on the risotto and ravioli is simply overwhelming and undesirable. Sarita, trying to be forgiving, commented “People in Bologna use more sauce, but this is too much — even for them!”

Dessert
After the heavy main courses, we didn’t mind ending it with a small dessert. The Torta di Mele (LE35) was a delicious and light-on-the-sugar finishing for a tasty meal.

Although the actual flavours are fair and the light appetisers are high-quality, the main dishes are simply too heavy and fall very short of Ahram Online’s “Authentic Surprise” series, which highlights authentic international restaurants.

Average per person: LE200 (we spent a bit over LE600 for three).

Smoking: Although many of the patrons don't smoke, when one or two at the table did smoke there wasn't enough ventilation to make breathing comfortable. Best to go early to avoid crowdedness.

Reservations: Highly recommended as there are few tables.

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