5 - 11 September 2002
Issue No. 602
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Wanna be AmericanoInjy El-Kashef digs beyond the sauce
When we decided to go to Johnny Carino's for Italian food I already had an inkling of what was to come, but, as I have been taught, I twisted my tongue in my mouth 10 times and decided to wait and see before expressing any politico-culinary views. The restaurant is spacious and sunny, probably better suited for lunch than dinner and certainly a pleasant venue for an after work filling bite. And filling it is, as cream and sauce abound on every dish.
The menu is perfectly sized. There are enough options to give a sense of freedom, and not so many that one may need a tranquiliser before making a choice. Chicken, chicken, everywhere and not a drop of alcohol to drink -- this was the most immediate observation made by our party a few minutes after arrival. However, the soft cocktails menu made up for that, and presented options ranging from wonderful nada colada (with real coconut creme) to all sorts of peachy, creamy, shaky, icy treats all of which met expectations except maybe the creme soda with orange.
To describe the food one must give two reactions, an initial one followed by a wiser, more mature one. To a party of starving journalists the creamy sauces and huge portions are the answers to all prayers. Be the food Italian, Chinese or Mexican, if it is fresh, tasty and filling, and has some character it will do wonderfully. As a result, we were terribly impressed with our first visit to Johnny Carino's. Initial reaction -- amazing. The Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach and Cheese covered in a rich sauce; the Italian Nachos, crispy, with chicken strips, vegetables and a poignant dressing; the al dente pasta, in its diversity, bathing in incredible sauces made up of creative ingredients like artichoke hearts, spinach and all sorts of cheeses. Cheers of praise for the food filled the air around our table, followed by our reactions to the desserts. Some of the best brownies ever tasted in the city, warmed and topped with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream; apple pie with caramel sauce and ice-cream; marble cheesecake with white chocolate. We were flying to another land where everything is beautiful.
Second reaction. We went again the next day, not as hungry, not as tired. The portions seemed obscenely large and too rich, the American way. And this time the flavours seemed to drown in the heaviness of the dishes. It dawned on us that this particular restaurant is not any more Italian than Pizza Hut is; and if anything, this was Chili's turned Italiano. Some food, especially the Italian Nachos and the Chicken Fetuccine, are in fact perfectly decent and fulfilling. We merely realised that Carino's offspring, Johnny, was dying to be Americano, though he was born in Italy.
Johnny Carino, Nile City Boat, Zamalek Corniche.
Tel 735 3084
Letter from the Editor
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