Tucked away in a cellar next to the looming glass structure of the new Central Square development, a stroll away from Leeds train station, is an Italian eatery with subtle panache.
Buca Di Pizza on Wellington Street may be underground but its street presence is vibrant. Its wooden shack-style entrance way is illuminated from above by red lights exclaiming what you will find inside: pizza and drinks.
If the bright lights don’t grab attention, the red pizza van parked outside will. Step inside and head downstairs and the cellar itself has been brought to life. A terracotta-coloured, tiled floor meets white-washed stone walls and arched ceilings. Vibrant red and deep olive green paintwork complement single, plastic flowers with red or white petals set in large, empty San Pellegrino bottles on the tables, all in keeping with the Italian theme.
After passing through a bar area on arrival there are eating spaces tucked in sections separated by the cellar’s arches. With low ceilings too, the effect is atmospheric and there are a smattering of diners here and pop music playing on this lunchtime trip.
I’m seated on a round wooden table opposite the serving area where there are two large pizza ovens.
The menu reveals a choice of two dozen pizza toppings with prices ranging from £8 to £13.50.
To start, or served in combination as a meal, are a selection of cichetti, savoury snacks or small side dishes which are typically served in a bar or informal restaurant, chiefly in Venice. Here the selection comprises of simple olives to grilled Italian vegetables and crispy fried seafood to warm octopus and potato salad and sausage braised in red wine. Every Wednesday three small cichetti plates and a drink cost £15.
A selection of sides and desserts are available too. On this visit, I opt for The Snake Charmer pizza which turns out to be a delicious choice with a topping consisting of coconut curry sauce, chilli glazed paneer, lamb koftas, grated carrot and beetroot slaw and mint yogurt, all topped in the centre by a large onion bhaji and served on a thin, light doughy base.
This pizza is selected from the list of house toppings which contain some imaginative combinations such as sausage, jalepenos and chilli jam, and Scotch bonnet sauce, smoked cheddar and pulled chicken wings with blue cheese sauce.
The service was prompt and easy-going and the pizza, washed down with a latte, came to just over £15.
There will be competition on the doorstep as outlets open at Central Square but Buca looks to offer enough to stand out from the crowd.