Pizza is hardly unusual fare in Cairo. Countless cooks, most without a hint of Italian training, purport to serve up some variety of this beloved dish. Many pizzas are edible; some are not. Options are surprisingly limited at the upper end of the pizza spectrum, as few places serve up a truly distinctive taste. Up until now, Charwood’s was likely the best option for those in search of a delicious slice.
With the arrival of Pizza Mia, tucked away in a quiet corner of Zamalek, this equation may have changed, and those seeking authentic Italian flavors in Cairo may be given a chance. If you’re ambling along Ismail Mohamed Street at more than a leisurely stroll, you’re likely to walk right past the restaurant. Just around the corner from Munch & Bagel on Taha Hussein Street and near the newly rebranded Zamalek Koshary store on Ismail Mohamed, Pizza Mia’s arrival continues a trend in culinary innovation in this part of the island.
As we find all too often dining in Cairo, expensive flashy places do not necessarily produce quality food. Great tastes can often be found in the most deceptively unpretentious corners. Pizza Mia may be small, just a few tables and chairs, but its kitchen packs a powerful punch and its tastes are utterly authentic. It’s also pleasantly designed: colorful flowers line the sidewalk outside, chilis and Italian cooking utensils adorn the walls inside.
Opened two weeks ago by a pair of Italian gastro-entrepreneurs, Pizza Mia serves the standard fare of an Italian kitchen; pasta, pizza, and an assortment of salads and savory snacks. They also serve very decent coffee.
With a place this small, Pizza Mia presumably is catering substantially to a drop-by clientele. Located across from Helwan University’s beautiful music campus in Zamalek, there are plenty of potential customers wandering past. One of the restaurant’s best features is the takeout-friendly pizza available by the slice. There are usually a variety of flavors prepared, and these slices are generous and delicious. Pizza Mia also serves up Italian pastry snacks, and one of these, the Amalfi, a pastry containing roasted vegetables, is a real treat.
The place clearly has potential, but it may not be living up to it. Once when we had a bit of time on our hands, some friends and I ordered a whole pizza off of the chalkboard menu, an exotic sounding Positano with tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage and mushrooms, and sat to eat at one of the restaurant’s colorful tables. But the pizza was surprisingly ordinary: with tinned ingredients, a size too small for its LE33 price tag, and not that much better than what you’d expect from any number of local establishments.
The jury is still out on Pizza Mia. Its flavors are delicious, its Italian authenticity is compelling and its location is great. Plus many of its tastes are as of yet undiscovered; it’s quite possible that a delightful pasta or a subtle tiramisu are still waiting to impress. But in spite of the place’s potential, the pizzas ordered off the chalkboard menu don’t quite have the requisite pizzazz.
Pizza Mia has certainly earned a return visit. If they can produce whole pizzas with the quality of their ready-made slices, then Cairo’s pizza lovers will truly be better off.
Pizza Mia is located at 2 Taha Hussein Street, Zamalek. Telephone: 0128 360 0045. Delivery is coming soon, though you can call ahead for takeout. Pizza by the slice is around LE10-12; whole pizzas are around LE30-40. The restaurant is open daily from 11 am to 12:30 am, though it was closed on a recent late night excursion. You can visit its website at http://www.pizzamiacairo.com.