More or less as soon as you turn into the quaint little courtyard called Booth’s Yard (just down from the main junction in Pudsey town centre) you sense you are going somewhere special.
The cobbled yard weaves its way up between olde worlde cottages and were it not for the sound of cars passing on the road behind, you might as well be in Victorian England.
Some way up this enchanting enclave you will find Diva Italiana, a delightful restaurant which is well worth a visit.
If the outside looks like something out of Dickens, then then inside does not disappoint. The ceilings are low, the bar downstairs short and yet well stocked, next to which a narrow staircase winds its way up into the main seating area.
We were welcomed at the door by a waiter who took our drinks order, but within moments we were shown upstairs to our table.
There’s a peculiar charm about Diva Italiana that puts one straight at ease. It’s rustic and mellow, it’s the kind of place you imagine discovering in some remote English village and yet it’s right here in the middle of Pudsey.
So, enough about the decor. What about the food?
Well, if you want to skip the details, quite simply, the food is fabulous. It’s a little piece of Italy.
We ordered some bread and olive oil and balsamic vinegar while we waited and this was brought to our table almost immediately - the bread was unleavened, sprinkled with all kinds of herbs and vegetables.
To start, we ordered a sharing seafood platter (anti-pasto mare £8 per person), which came with shrimps, prawns and marinated fish.
The food was piping hot, the flavours simple and yet sumptuous, but then, for £8 apiece you’d expect nothing less.
Generally, starters were priced at £6 per person and there was plenty to whet our appetite, including tempting morsels such as traditional bruschette with fresh tomato or grilled ‘Praga’ ham.
Glancing at the list of dishes at Diva Italiana, you get the sense they have gone to a lot of trouble to present to their customers a simple and yet elegant menu. It’s good, wholesome, honest food, kept simple and yet clearly cooked with passion.
Our journey into winter dining wonderland continued with our mains. My partner ordered a calzone pizza (£9), while I went for the tagliatelle with salmon (£10).
Both dishes were delicious and the calzone folded pizza, which is so often undercooked, was done to perfection, the pizza dough being just the right thickness.
Desserts cost £5 each and were presented to us on a small chalkboard. There wasn’t a huge choice (there being six in all) but to be honest, how much choice do you want for your last course?
There was Italian ice cream, classic tiramasu, panna cotta, chocolate cake, bread and butter pudding and Vin Santo and cantucci, a kind of dessert wine and sweet coffee biscuits.
We went for tiramasu, which came in a little glass, the portion being just enough for one person, the taste sublime, and also panna cotta which proved just as delicious.
During our meal, we also ordered a mixed salad for £4.
Together with two black coffees and our drinks, the final bill came to £67.50.
That might seem a lot of money to pay for a night out but you have to remember we had three courses and coffee to finish. Diva Italiana have a good selection of affordable dishes on offer, including a Tuscan nights menu on Tuesdays which includes four courses for £15.
They also lay on a Sunday lunch menu from 12.30pm where children eat for free, and if you just fancied nipping out for a main meal and a glass of wine, I dare say you’d still have change from £30, so it’s not necessary to spend huge amounts.
Service was spot on, too, we really couldn’t ask for more. Staff were attentive but not intrusive.
Diva Italiana is a relatively small restaurant but this only adds to its appeal. It’s a million miles away from the glitz and glamour you would expect to find in some larger Italian restaurants, and when you’ve finished your meal and you’re ready to step outside, it’s almost as though the worries of the world have somehow melted away - at least until you walk the short distance back to Pudsey town centre.
One more thing worth mentioning, although we have yet to try it out, is that the restaurant also offers its full menu online in takeaway form, which is perhaps something for us to consider the next time we are feeling like a treat but don’t fancy braving the weather.
It is a restaurant where it is difficult to think of any negatives - and that is a good way to begin the New Year.
Address: Booth’s Yard, Pudsey, LS28 7AD
Telephone: 0113 2555 810
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