Trattoria: Zamalek’s neighborhood bistro

Walking into Trattoria in Zamalek, I’m reminded of that American TV series Cheers, famous for the tagline “where everyone knows your name.” Cheers was based around a homey bar/restaurant in Boston that provided a neighborhood community gathering place, where you could wander on nearly any evening and probably see a few familiar faces. Trattoria has the same neighborhood feel. Many guests seem to know each other and there’s a core set of regulars. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of Omar Sherif, a Trattoria regular, and father of the owner, Tarek Sherif.

Sherif, the ownerr not the actor, is one of Cairo’s most exciting restaurateurs. Trattoria was one of his early developments, and it has remained on Cairo’s top ten dining list consistently since its opening. Sherif has gone on to establish such dining successes as Charwood and Au Petit Bistro. He even has a role in the highly successful Maison Thomas pizza chain. Nor is his work limited to Cairo. Along the Red Sea coast in Gouna, you can sample another two of his restaurants, La Scala and Deauville, both of which are excellent.

Trattoria serves up unpretentious Italian fare. It has the homey feel of your Italian grandmother’s kitchen if only you were so lucky to have one. The pastas are fresh and appropriately al dente; the meats are good, particularly a delightful ossobucco; the desserts are innovative and consistent. Some of our favorites include beef carpaccio as a starter, homemade cannelloni ravioli or gnocchi for pasta, sea bass or ossubucco as mains, and caramelized pears for dessert. A rather surprising talent of Trattoria is its bread. Trattoria’s homemade baguettes may be in the running for Cairo’s best, and mixed with a bit of olive oil is one of the best tastes on the menu.

The service is by and large solid. Its interior is modern and minimalist: sparse but elegant pictures against a white wall, old-school solid-wood tables, comfortable high-backed chairs. At times popular dishes are unavailable, and when the demand outpaces expectation, things can become a bit backed up. But even when things get slow, the pleasant ambiance and excellent bread will keep you happily occupied.

Trattoria has established itself as Zamalek’s neighborhood bistro for the northern end of the island. The food is good, day in and day out. Ingredients are fresh, service is good. Trattoria has earned its place at the top of Cairo’s dining scene, and even more impressive, it has justified this position for years.

Details: 13 El Maraashly St, Zamalek. Tel: 2735 0470. Open daily noon to midnight, or later. Dinner for two: LE250.

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