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Pepenero: Indulging in Italian dishes in a veranda setting
Published in Ahram Online on 14 - 07 - 2019

For a late lunch or an early dinner over the spacious veranda of an old Heliopolis apartment on Baghdad Street, Pepenero is there.
Since its opening a few years ago, it has been one of the places where one could still enjoy a shaded-open-air four course meal in the middle of the summer.
Obviously, for those who wish not to venture on the balcony before or even after sunset, there are air-conditioned setting with tables far enough from one another to allow for a private chat.
Both come with quality food and service, given the prompt but not over attentive bearing of the waiters and the lengthy menu that caters for lunch and diner.
The first thing that one needs to know before placing the order is that Pepenero is not a place with small portions. “Not small as if it were Swiss, not big as if it were American but large enough to be an Italian,” as one waiter commented.
This is particularly the case for the starters and the main dishes – less so for the pasta and the dessert.
The Caprese, that comes in an appetizing dome with decent mozzarella and fresh tomatos assembled over red and green lettuce is certainly a must try.
Along with a Carpaccio di Manzo, where the thinly raw beef is truly fresh, and a Mozzearella di bufala alla Contadina, where the grilled vegetable are sliced to measure, neither too thin nor too thick, the three antipasto dishes offered a delightful and in fact semi-filling start to a crowd of five who had already enjoyed the house focaccia with medium sliced tomatoes and black olives followed by quite a generous bread basket.
Also shared for the Primi Piatti were the must have lasagna Milanese, the home-made Gnocchi, alla Sorrentina, with a generous splash of Parmesan and last but not least the penne all' ortolana where the eggplants seemed to be having a bit of an upper hand over the generally submissive zucchini and the timidly present peppers.
In the wait to the secondi piatti there was a round of fresh drinks that took over from the two bottles of water – flat and sparkly that were coming to an end.
Lemon mint smoothies and Pepenero Mojitos, of sprite, mint and caster sugar, could have well served as a perfect ending to the meal. But when hungry people order they tend to go overboard.
The shared choices of filetto di salamone con risotto, scaloppine al limone con menta penne and the pollo peperoni e sphagetti were equally good.
It was past the point of return and an order of two desserts seemed inevitable before the two successive rounds of coffee.
Tiramisu and Panna Cotta were obvious. They were also good. In fact good enough, that an extra Tiramisu found its place on the table.
An elaborate good meal always come with extended chats and would typically take a group of friends from the 4:30 late lunch zone into the early dinner zone of 7:30 when Baghdad Street is getting ready for those who come for strolls and ice cream at one gelato stop or another.
For the Pepenero balcony when the air is really cooling down to the point that it might tempt someone with a free schedule to consider a longer stay with another drink.
For those who frequent Pepenero on the weekend, there is always the delight of the salad bar – that allows one visit only – and is often followed by one of many inviting pizzas.
Pepenaro is not an inexpensive place and a dinner fro two could cost anything starting LE600.

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