Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
3 - 9 August 2000
Issue No. 493
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

The cup overfloweth

By Injy El-Kashef

Always seeing the empty half of the glass causes premature ageing; always seeing the full is just dumb. The best is to see both, or neither. At La Gondola, we saw them both. We saw that otherwise excellent waiters wearing straw hats with black satin ribbons indoors represented a glass more than half empty. We saw that everything else constituted a perfect full one.

We glimpsed the interior as we stood contemplating which restaurant to pick. One quick glance was enough to pull us in without even exchanging mutual consent. What joy to find ourselves bathing in the warm glow of the afternoon sun. What bliss, all the lush greenery filtering the soft rays between its leaves. Our hearts leapt. Such a welcoming atmosphere, with barely audible Italian classical songs floating amid the beige bamboo seats, bouncing off the glass ceiling and walls, swaying between the best waiters one has met in months (apart from the straw hats -- there must be a black spot somewhere on the banana; otherwise something's fishy, or else it's plastic). They say just what they need to; no psychoanalysis of your nationality. They smile just at the right time, a curt, quick and seemingly honest smile. They know when you're ready, if you've finished but would enjoy the presence of the plate on the table just a few more minutes; they know that you relished every morsel off that plate.

Some of the best Italian in town they have served you themselves. Tortellini alla case whetted our appetites. Home-made cheese tortellini with smoked chicken, morel mushroom and sun-dried tomatoes with a creamy pesto sauce. Divine. Every word was true. Every bite extracted a moan. Then followed what my dining companion judged excellent Costolette di Agnello ai pepperoni (I never touch lamb, with or without green peppers). From my distance I could appreciate their colour, their texture, even their aroma, but that's as far as it goes. Much closer to my heart was my Piccata di vitello with mushroom sauce. Those mushrooms! They were so fresh and powerful they must have been grown out there among those kind green plants.

The portions are neither too large nor too small, the flavour neither too subtle nor nauseatingly strong. Everything is, like my mother would say, comme il faut. Absolutely just right.

The desserts. The desserts. The desserts. We are picky; not just anything pleases us -- it's the nature of the job. But the desserts. One Torrone di cioccolata (home-made chocolate nougat) to demand as a final wish before capital punishment. Fine little touches: melted chocolate sauce, crumbled meringue, fresh whipped cream. My Panna cotta al caramella is what you eat as your soul floats away from your body after the execution. Caramel sauce, golden, thick, rich, sweet, to smear all over your plate, to mix with your cream, to pour over the chilled panna cotta.

La Gondola is engraved deep in our soul. Never go after sunset. The sun, the greenery: it's an experience involving all five senses -- and an LE180 bill.

La Gondola, Sonesta Hotel, 4 Al-Tayaran St, Madinet Nasr.

Tel 2628111 / 2617100

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