Chez Gaby and Café Royal

In 1979 Au Ritrovo was sold to Gabriel Asaad and Mohamed Abou Zeid. They were the youngest restaurant owners at the time. They transformed part of Au Ritrovo into the pizza shop Chez Gaby, which became the rage of the town. They were encouraged by all Alexandrians. A modern yet classical Italian atmosphere, casual and relaxed, Chez Gaby offered a welcome mediation between two cultures at affordable prices and in a friendly and welcoming spirit. With its two chefs operating smoothly behind the counter, partners in business, once could not help delighting at a perfect example of a solid social fabric. Café Royal was originally part of the cafeteria of Cinema Royal, and was opened in 1988.

Gabriel (Gaby) has passed away, and Chez Gaby and Café Royal are now run by his widow Roxanne, yet another Alexandrian woman at the helm of a successful eatery in the city, counting Madame Elite as Madame Christina was known, the Lady at Petro, Gina Soulos at the head of Fluckiger, and Pizza almost singlehandedly running Délices (incidentally now run by Aliki Antoniou) then Fluckiger and later the Lord’s Inn pastry shop. Well-known figures like Samir Sabry, Madiha Kamel, Moataz el Demerdash, Magda el Sabah, Ihab Nafie frequented the establishment. Both Alexandrians and foreigners enjoy eating at Chez Gaby. Gihan el Sadat was one of their most famous clients. International figures include Prince Albert of Monaco, John Major and Prince Philip of Belgium.

Pizza Gaby

Dough, family secret with an olive oil base
2 tsp tomato sauce, family secret
6 slices roast beef, sausages or capicollo
3 – 4 anchovies
6 – 7 mushrooms, sliced
4 green peppers, sliced
1 tsp oregano
2 tomatoes, sliced
Grated mozzarella, enough to cover pizza

- Roll out dough and top with above ingredients.
- Bake in a very hot oven for 15 minutes.

* Dough and tomato sauce suggestions:

2½ tsp yeast
1⅓ cups warm water
3½ - 3¾ cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 kg tomatoes concassé
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
10 fresh basil leaves

- Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand until frothy.
- Add olive oil to yeast mixture then pour over flour.
- Work dough and knead until smooth.
- Place in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth and proof until double in size.
- Punch down dough and knead again for 2 minutes.
- Divide dough into two and roll out into 2 circle about 5mm thick.
- Place tomatoes and second quantity of olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. When bubbly, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes adding water if needed.
- 5 minutes before removing from heat, add garlic, salt and pepper.
- Ladle and spread tomato sauce over both pieces of dough then top with ingredients of choice.
- Arrange basil leaves over toppings and bake.

On Rue Fouad, on the corner of the Cordahi complex and now close to the Anawati Khan el Khalili, Hadji Bakir sold his Turkish delights, loucoums stuffed with walnut or coated in chocolate and wrapped in cellophane.