“Put a Yorkshireman in charge of an Italian restaurant???” I said. “Next, you will be telling me a Swede is being appointed as England Football coach!”
So it came to pass that my predictions for the year 2001 were (as ever) way off the mark, since Martin Pickles bought the Flying Pizza in Leeds and……….well let’s not discuss the other appointment.
Adriano, who founded the Flying Pizza in 1984 had an air of the mafioso about him – that’s not to say that he IS mafioso! I don’t need any more horses heads on my pillow, thanks. However, his authoritative air undoubtedly helped make his restaurant the only place to be seen in Leeds throughout the eighties and nineties. So when news that Martin was buying out Adriano started to spread, we feared the worst.
I discovered the place in the nineties and was instantly impressed. I’ve now been so many times that visiting feels like putting on my favourite shirt. When I realised I hadn’t reviewed the place on my blog, I decided to pay a “typical” visit based on all my previous experiences. I found the “old shirt” in good form.
At £20.50 the Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna is great value. Cannonau is Sardinia’s great wine and this zingy one tasted of tinned peas, potato skin and blackberries. Mature, full bodied, but far from over-powering.
Foodwise, the peperone ripieno could have been an overpowering dish stuffed, as it is, with veal, herbs, cheese and tomato, but in fact it was subtle and well balanced.
The Paillarde di Manzo Contadina (I think this roughly translates as “beef in the countryside”) is one of my all time favourite dishes. You might have tried tagliata which is slices of beef sitting on a bed of dressed rocket. This is the reverse, and hunting beneath the rocket I found a surprising quantity of meat – well this is Yorkshire I guess!
I’m happy to report that, despite several waiting staff changes, Martin has kept the place in top form. Even though several new Italian restos have set up in Leeds the place is still permanently busy. I think this is because the same head chefs are ensuring top quality food, the atmosphere is friendly with properly trained waiters, and yet the prices are extremely reasonable.
If I had to choose a place for my last supper it would be the Flying Pizza. I wonder if Adriano is preparing to grant my wish…
Flying Pizza, 60 Street Lane, Leeds, LS8 2DQ. 0113 266 6501. www.theflyingpizza.co.uk/