“Yes, I have a restaurant in Egypt. It opened not too long ago,” said the man sitting next to me on the plane from Cairo to Milan, Italy. We had introduced ourselves; his name is Magdy.
“The restaurant is called Cavallini and my partner owns the original restaurant in Milan,” Magdy continued. “You should give him a call.”
And so I did. His partner, Joseph Ghapios, welcomed me to his restaurant, not far from Milan’s bustling business centre.
“How did you start Cavallini?” was the obvious first question to ask Ghapios, an Egyptian who spoke fluent Italian and had adopted the calm air of the Italians after 23 years living there.
“I had four restaurants and I sold them to focus on Cavallini,” which, it turns out, is ranked the 5th best Italian restaurant by the local newspaper. He bought the restaurant’s location and name and reinvented the menu. After spending all of his time in the kitchen, earning his degree as a chef from Scuola di Cucina del Gambero-Rosso, and working in Stelati, a two-star Michelin restaurant and five-star hotels, he was prime to take the rather prestigious name on.
“So why did you open a Cavallini in Cairo?”
“For the nostalgia, so when I visit Cairo, I still have a connection with Italy and my restaurant,” he says simply.
In a place like this - where the tables are ample and inviting, the tablecloths are impeccably laid out, the lighting is low and classic and the spacious patio is neatly lined with large tables - the aim is for the environment to give the visitor everything they need to focus on the food.
“The materia prima,” he lets the words ring in the air without further explanation as a testimony to their importance.
When asked what plates are exactly the same on the Cairo and Milan menus, Ghapios responds to Ahram Online: ”the Risotto Milanesa.”
He also says that the Cairo menu is very different from the Milan menu. There simply isn’t the same materia prima.
When asked what he strongly recommends from the Cavallini menu in Egypt, he doesn’t hesitate: “The grilled chicken.
“The quality of the chickens in Egypt is far better than here [Milan]. They’re excellent. Also, the grilled chicken is well-marinated and grilled in a special carbon-based oven,” reveals the owner.
Cavallini in Egypt is more entertainment-oriented than the original, with certain nights reserved for karaoke or live performances. Let's see if Cairo's Cavallini meets what's expected of a well-regarded Italian restaurant in Milan.
Address: Sun City Mall, Ring Road, Heliopolis, Cairo
Tel: 0222699113, 01061191100
Open: 12 noon – 3am