Viaggio: Divine Italian Cooking in the Heart of Heliopolis
Though the exterior might fool you into thinking it’s just another café, this chillaxed venue has much more to offer.
You could argue that Egypt has way more than its fair share of trendy coffees shops and cafes, and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Pretentious names, archaic menus, bland food, lacklustre shishas and an air of discomfort are usually what follow you around once you’re embroiled in a get-together in a similar establishment, and although exceptions do exist (guess which one it is today), it’s hard to break that mold. At least until Viaggio happened.
Viaggio, on the surface, comes off as something that’s been done to death, but once you take a chance and walk inside, it offers way more to the senses, against any preconceived notions you might have had. Seeing as we were there for the food, we didn’t have much of a vested interest in the actual layout of the place. But when you walk in expecting mehhh and find deftly hand-painted murals on the walls, an entire section of the walls covered in greenery, and curved UHD screens all over the place, opinions can change in the blink of an eye. There’s even a tucked away set of bookshelves stocked with some iconic works of literature on your way to the bathroom, but for whatever reason, it’s out of sight from the main seating area.
The food – although seemingly basic – was almost pure art. We decided to go for the simpler things they had on offer, so as not to overwhelm our delicate senses. A nice shrimp salad, some fettucine alfredo pasta and a pizza was enough for us to see what they had to offer; three things you can easily destroy, while at the same time, masterfully reinvent. Using our totally arbitrary one to ten scale of deliciousness, we decided to go for the salad first, and that thing was nothing short of excellent; absolutely crisp throughout, the shrimp weren’t too few or too much, nor were they comically small. The dressing and hefty addition of real mozzarella kicked our senses into overdrive. A perfect 10.
The pasta wasn’t too far behind either; the noodles themselves are about as Al dente as it can get. You can hardly ever come across a plate of pasta that has real bite to it; it doesn’t turn into mush, nor does it congeal and form a glob of sadness. Firm throughout and deftly manage to capture the sauce, the noodles were a winner already, but the sauce had a thing or two to say as well. What we imagined was going to be slightly salty white slop turned out to be an almost realistic alfredo sauce; just enough butter to smooth things along, an added measure of cream, perhaps a pinch of flour and a hell of a lot of parmesan made the whole thing come together way too well. The smell alone was enough to unlock even the stiffest of stomachs, and the portions when it came to the chicken and mushrooms were way more than we were used to at similar establishments. It even came with an adorable piece of garlic bread, if garlic bread could be adorable that is (which it almost always is). Solid 9/10 (could use a bit more basil for that extra 1).
The pizza, on the other hand, was pretty bland, not a whole lot to say about it either. The crust wasn’t that interesting, the sauce either had too much garlic or not enough herbs, and it was just…a meh pizza. However, when we brought this up with the owner, he had explained that their head pizza chef (of Andiamo fame) was feeling a bit under the weather, so they had to get a stand-in till he could get back in dough-tossing shape. Swell guy.
We weren’t that interested in trying their shisha at the time, but from the smell alone, we could tell they didn’t skimp on the tobacco. All in all though, Viaggio was a much-needed surprise; wonderfully cooked food, great atmosphere, relentlessly prompt service and enough picturesque scenery to paint a smile on anybody, we’re glad it carves a niche for itself as “not just another café.”
Need a fresh new Heliopolis hangout? Stranded in the prettier side of East Cairo and looking for a quality bite? Check out Viaggio’s Facebook page for more info and updates.
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