A peaceful excursion surrounded by Giza

Much copied, but rarely equaled, Andrea’s of Marioutieh is a Cairo institution.  A testament to its success is the number of imposters that it has spawned. The real Andrea is a bit difficult to find, tucked along a canal road in the middle of a confusing part of Giza.  Worse, for the past year or so, it’s been hidden behind the mass of construction concerning the (now open) Marioutieh raised road.  Once, on my way to Andrea’s, I got hopelessly lost, and so hired a taxi to take me the rest of the way.  By the time we arrived at the third restaurant bearing the name Andrea, none of which was the one I was looking for, I gave up.

When you first walk in, you realize what Andrea is really all about.  A massive table of rotisserie chicken spins slowly and deliciously over hot coals.  Next door, ladies who have been at the task for generations bake wonderfully fresh rusk-topped baladi bread.  Andrea’s rotisserie chicken and its extraordinary bread are two of the tastes that keep us coming back here time and time again.  Andrea’s is impressive for its ability to gather multiple groups of clientele under the same roof.  Local families, elite power couples, local expatriates, and bus loads of tourists visiting the Pyramids all mingle shoulder to shoulder in Andrea’s beautiful garden surrounded by bougainvillea-covered walls.

The menu, if you find one, isn’t particularly instructive.  There’s the standard array of appetizers, hummous, tahina, vine leaves, sambousek, chicken liver and so on.  There are a few additional items available off of the grill, including kofta, shish taouk skewers, and quail.  But the real action is in the chicken.  It comes in whole or half bird portions.  Waiters will tell you that you need a half chicken per person.  While you can probably get through that much, you may well go into a food coma afterwards.  We always slather the chicken with ample quantities of the superb toumeya garlic paste that gives the braised skin of the chicken a beautiful flavor.  Dessert consists of ice cream bars or fresh fruit.

Andrea’s is set in a beautiful courtyard garden.  In the corner there’s a kids area replete with swings, slides and donkey rides, and as a result, Andrea’s has a strong following among families.  In the winter, if the weather gets too cold, there is an attractive indoor dining room, but in spite of its tastefulness, it lacks the charming essence of the Andrea’s experience.  In the evening, a small tasteful bar opens.  Andrea’s owner Omar Rateb also runs a similarly spectacular Andrea on the north coast, formerly in Agami, now moved to Hacienda further west.

During the construction of the Marioutieh raised road, getting to Andrea’s was a challenge.  Now the construction is finished, and access is simple once again, with added dimension of a dramatic flyover towering over your head as you go to park.  A testament to power of Andrea’s gardenlike idyll, once you’re inside that massive road directly outside the wall seems a world away.

Details: 59-60 Marioutieh Canal Rd, Giza, 3383 1133; open noon to midnight daily.  Alcohol served.  Lunch for two: under LE200.

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