We all looked nervously at each other, my palms became sweaty, an awkward silence descended and I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. All because somebody at the table asked “so what are you having?” The menu intimidated us all, I’d even mistaken the specials menu for the main menu for the first 5 minutes. Along with the number of menu options, Flying Pizza isn’t lacking in atmosphere either. The large restaurant was full of the good people of Leeds, talking, gesticulating and having a good time…bar the teenage girl who I was told was sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom. You’ll be glad to hear ‘they didn’t mean what they said to her’, a phrase her friends echoed under the stall. Our table was located next to the theatre kitchen were the hard working chefs could be seen having as good a time as the diners. Whilst we munched on packets of bread sticks we admired walls strewn with photos of such luminaries as Ant & Dec (conspicuously not on the same photo), someone who was or is in the Sugababes and JLS (Gone but not forgotten). None of which I think have ever been to this branch of the San Carlo empire, at least I don’t think Rihanna has ever been to Street Lane in Roundhay.
It was from the specials I ordered my starter, ‘Funghi Campagnola’. These open cup mushrooms filled with creamy leeks, olive oil, parmesan and breadcrumbs were bullied by a spicy side sauce. It was pricey for £7.25 for a small portion that lacked something special and I’m sure lacked a billed filling of tomatoes. The traditional looking starters wouldn’t have looked out of place served to Gordon Gekko wearing a sweater vest, listening to Roxy music. My better halfs melon with parma ham a case in point but demonstrated some of the quality ingredients on offer. The mussels Provencale was the stand out starter, showing what’s great about Italian cooking – tasty, quality ingredients prepared very well. A third of the mussels were closed, this was rectified by the manager swiftly. The staff throughout the meal were a friendly bunch even on a busy Saturday service.
In Leeds we’re lucky that amongst the glut of takeaways and chain pizza restaurants, some places really get it right, With Ecco pizzeria and Box pizza springing to mind…mouth-watering as I type. I took a chance on the pizza and after a glass or two of wine, I mistakenly ordered a San Marco pizza rather than a San Carlo. Thankfully instead of a frozen, deep pan pizza that leaves your mouth and expectations in tatters, it impressed. The base has the right mix of crisp and soft, starting to blacken for extra flavour. The tangy tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella were generously topped with peppery rocket, rich shavings of parmesan and salty parma ham. These deliciously subtle flavours contrast with the powerful, spicy, salty meaty flavour of Pizza Diavola. The menu states this pizza was popular with the Italian immigrants in Brooklyn and boasts the famous ‘nduja sausage imported from Calabria. The pizza manages that fine balance between packing a spicy punch but also allowing the sausage, onions and chilli. Both extremes welcome parts of the heavily creaking menu. The Carbonara was a bit too creamy for my tastes but went down well with my better half and the salmon tortellini showcased the fish in a superb, velvety sauce. As you may be able to tell, we were beaten before we got to dessert.
We had a great night at Flying Pizza with a loud, bustling atmosphere and flowing alcohol adding the occasion. What is lacking is value, fewer dishes on the menu done well would be ideal for me and justify the reasonably high price tag. Starters were around £8, pizza and pasta around £12 and meat dishes from £17 upwards. If you like choice, a great spot for a night out and don’t mind spending your pennies then this will be right up your street, I’ll be back for the Pizza Diavola.
Open Monday to Sunday, 12pm to 11pm
Located 60 Street Lane, Roundhay, LS8 2DQ