There is considerable concern about the state of the economy in Egypt. The revolution, some say, is bad for business. Tycoons have been locked up. Properties have been seized. Assets have been frozen. If you examine one of the most dynamic sectors of the past decade, real estate, you may be even more pessimistic. With investments gone sour, units lying empty, investor confidence at an all time low, one could be forgiven for thinking that it could take a decade or more for the economy to recover.
But when looking at the state of the economy, an excessive focus on massive investments surrounding the real estate sector is misplaced. To see the direction in which the economy is heading, an examination of small time entrepreneurs provides a much more reliable predictor of things to come. And these investors, entrepreneurs with a unique idea leading to a limited investment that may expand in the future, have returned in force.
Take the new Stavolta home made Italian gelateria in Maadi for instance. Opened a mere three weeks ago, it seems that Stavolta chose a terrible time to enter the market. But instead of lacking business, Stavolta has quickly carved out a name for itself among the capital’s ice cream enthusiasts, with many making the trek down to Maadi from all over Cairo to sample its flavors. By the comments on Stavolta’s Facebook page, it has clearly attracted a dedicated following.
To be fair, Stavolta’s success isn’t all about the improving Egypt’s investment climate. It’s also a testament to the place’s quality. There’s nothing like homemade, local ice cream. I must confess, when it comes to ice cream, I’m an American, not an Italian. While I’ve rarely met an ice cream I didn’t like, I am partial to the thick, creamy, decadent consistency of American ice cream, like Ben and Jerry’s or Baskin Robbins. The softer, lighter Italian gelato version, while occasionally delightful, lacks the glorious extravagance of well-made American ice cream.
But the freshness and consistency of Stavolta’s scoops more than compensates for this disadvantage. The difference in quality is astounding between mass produced ice cream, shipped frozen over long distances, sometimes thawing and refreezing during transit, and that which is locally made. Stavolta’s ice cream is made and served up on the spot. As a result, the consistency is a delight; rich, creamy, flavorful.
Locally made also allows the flavors to be a bit more interesting that we’re accustomed to: pear, blueberry, mocha, tartufo, and so on. The blueberry in particular is a riot of fresh, flavorful, decadent berries. Now that’s a scoop of ice cream. Stavolta also stocks a range of other ice cream based goodies, including cakes, popsicles, and homemade waffle cones.
At just under LE10 per scoop, you can certainly find cheaper ice cream in Cairo. But it’s still a bargain compared with that imported gold being hawked at Voila and other such places. Stavolta, opened in the middle of Egypt’s revolution, is going strong. Perhaps this is a hopeful sign. When people have a taste for ice cream, it must mean they’re hopeful about the future.
Details: 39 Road 231, Digla, Maadi, in the same emerging culinary corner of Digla around La Fromagerie and Hubbly Bubbly. Tel: 2521 0065. www.stavolta.net(under construction). Around LE10/scoop. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 am-10:30 pm. Check out Stavolta Homemade Italian Gelato on Facebook.