Farah el Deeb

If you have never been to Italy before, understated Heliopolis bistro Pepenero provides a good alternative. Pepenero’s unobtrusive entrance is almost snuggled in amongst the surrounding buildings in the heart of busy Korba and, while this may prove confusing when it comes to actually locating the restaurant, it certainly adds to the feeling of being tucked away in what has been described as “Cairo’s best-kept Italian secret”.

Pepenero specializes in bistro-fare, adapted to a Cairene clientele. Soft lights and colors help to set a cozy atmosphere indoors. With a “balcone” directly overlooking Korba’s busy streets and buildings and a bookshelf full of Italian cooking books, Pepenero allows restaurant-goers the feeling of being cocooned in a relaxed, private space while still having access to the bustling area around them. It must surely be a perfect spot for dates and gatherings.

We were greeted with two of the restaurant’s special non-alcoholic drinks: a Mojito so fresh and minty you’d forget the heat of summer and the highly recommended Passionfruit cocktail which left us in a state of “amore” with its sweetness and tropical freshness.

Italian salads have always been known for their flavor and Pepenero’s Caprese and Carpaccio Di Manzo are no different. The Caprese is a tasty combination of buffalo mozzarella cheese, juicy tomatoes and red coral lettuce drizzled with olive oil and pesto. As for the Carpaccio Di Manzo, it’s definitely a salad for meat lovers with its mix of beef and rucola combining a sharp salty tang with fresh greenery.

The first main dish served was the Lasagna Milanese: layers of well-seasoned meat, creamy béchamel and thick tomato sauce. We also sampled the special Pepenero Pizza: a thin crispy base in the true Italian way, baked with a blend of tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella, topped with divinely marinated chicken pieces and a final touch of black olives.

Those who are looking to satisfy their sweet tooth should definitely try Pepenero’s Nutella Calzone, a puffy half crescent-like pastry decorated with powdered sugar and a brush of nutella, filled with chocolate sauce and accompanied by crushed biscuits on the side. Simply put, no chocolate lover will be able to get enough of this experience.

With service that was helpful, generous and attentive, we found Pepenero to be a great dining experience, suitable for all kinds of meetings and gatherings. If you like your food hearty and full of flavor, with generous portions and the kind of warm service that makes you feel as though you are sitting in someone’s home in the heart of Rome, Florence or Venice, this lovely little bistro is most definitely worth a try.

Rating: 8/10

Address: El-Thawra St, El-Montaza, Heliopolis, Cairo Governorate

Phone: 0101 010 1342

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