Zamalek is by far one of the most popular Cairo neighborhoods when it comes to eating, drinking and being merry; locals, expats and tourists alike are regularly found kicking back in the Nile island’s numerous restaurants and bars.
That being said, there are some great restaurants flying under the radar in Zamalek; hidden gems of sorts frequented usually only by the people who live nearby and who are in the know. We were of two minds actually before writing this --why expose our hidden gems, they’re great hidden!-- but then we realized that’d be selfish of us, plus in covid-19 times, our favorite spots need all the support they can get.
So let’s hop right into it before we change our minds:
This tiny little pasta place is very easy to miss unless you’re specifically looking for it. Located across from Abou el Sid off of 26th July Street (super convenient if you’re staying at the Cairo Marriott in Zamalek), this little place offers up around 20 different pasta dishes, ranging from southeast Asian inspired to local Red Sea seafood pasta, as well as a few soups, salads and antipasti. The pasta is all fresh and homemade, and the sauces are made right in front you. Alcohol is not served.
O Pasta’s menu.
Local tip: try their lemon bar for dessert
Cairo has some decent sushi, some ‘okay?’ sushi and not much else by way of Japanese food. The exception to that is the little-known Makino, found in the Hilton Zamalek. Makino is very well known with Japanese expats living in Cairo, but remains a hidden gem to Egyptian locals and tourists. Their kitchen is staffed by Japanese chefs who not only serve up authentic sushi, sashimi, makimono, daily bento, udon and ramen, but also occasionally give an Egyptian twist -- molokheya cold noodle anyone? Alcohol is served.
Makino’s menu (keep in mind though they have daily, weekly and monthly specials which might not be on the menu).
Local tip: They’re closed daily from 3 pm to 6 pm, so head there either for lunch starting 12:30 pm, or dinner from 6 pm on to 10:30 pm.
Sapori di Carlo
Translating to ‘Carlo’s flavors’ in Italian, the Carlo in question would be Chef Carlo Adib, who had his own Michelin-recognized Italian restaurant in Paris. Sapori di Carlo is a hidden gem due to its small size (it can take only up to 20 people), so most people cruise right past it on Mohammed Mazhar without even seeing it. They mainly focus on Neapolitan pizza, with their pizza oven being the star and focal point of the restaurant, but also have a handful of pasta and bruschetta dishes. Alcohol isn’t served.
Sapori di Carlo’s menu.
Local tip: if you’re in the mood for Neapolitan pizza but too lazy to actually leave your house to procure it, Sapori di Carlo delivers.
This restaurant is a Zamalek classic and it always puzzles us that so many locals don’t know about it. To be fair, their guests are so loyal that they don’t really need to advertise or market themselves but here we are doing it for them anyway!
La Trattoria is upscale but without being pretentious or stuffy ('casual fine dining' is how they describe themselves), and has built its intensely loyal fanbase on its warm ambience, consistently good quality Italian fare, wine and attentive service.
La Trattoria’s menu.
Local tip: the restaurant is almost invisible from the street with no obvious signage; it’s right next to the Mit Rihan gallery on Maraashly Street and has a large wooden door.
When we say ‘hidden’ gem, we weren’t kidding when it comes to Don Corleone -- they’re delivery and take-away only. Yup, unless you’re somehow in the know, this pizzeria has probably escaped your attention, which is a shame -- they do some awesome thin crust pizzas, plus different focaccias. A great alternative for when you’re in the mood for pizza but don’t want to feel like death after (looking at you, Pizza Hut).
Don Corleone’s menu.
Another long-term Zamalek heavy hitter, Sabai Sabai is a Thai restaurant hidden in the same shabby building as Metro Market in Zamalek, near Flamenco Hotel. It’s a real shame that most Cairenes and foreigners haven’t heard about Sabai Sabai -- you’re missing out (except on the horrible parking, that is).
Staffed by Egyptians but headed by a Thai chef, almost all of Sabai Sabai’s rave reviews mention the authenticity of the food, and their menu even has a few nods to Chinese cuisine (their dim sum is awesome) and Vietnamese. Alcohol is served.
Sabai Sabai’s menu.
You might also like: Thai in Cairo: 7 Best Thai Restaurants in the City
Nestled next to the All Saints Cathedral in Zamalek is the newly-opened Granita, a "concept cafeteria" that's a nod to the 'grand cafes' of Egypt back in the 1930s and 1940s - think Groppi and other vintage cosmopolitan cafes.
They have both an indoor and outdoor area perfect for sunny brunches, work meetings and or just enjoying a coffee and pastry solo. They offer breakfast, sandwiches, salads, pienirli (Greek pizzas), appetizers, main plates and homemade desserts.
You might also like: 7 Best Bars, Pubs & Restobars in Zamalek