I love Cafe Marinetti. I love it for its authenticity and familiar feel, the genuine smiles from the staff, the thoughtfulness behind the service, the cosy atmosphere and the food. But I worry about it.
I worry about it, because, as much as I like it, in June, it’s going to have some stiff competition pretty much across the road. Simon Miller, one of the trio behind the ultra successful Ilkley-based La Casita restaurant, which won Best European at this year’s Yorkshire Evening Post Oliver Awards, is coming to town.
La Casita has already unfurled its wings as far as Boston Spa and is now planning to extend them even further. It will open at the bottom of Town Street around the time Britain goes to the polls to decide whether or not we all want to remain part of Europe, which seems somehow apt (but even if the country does decide to ditch its European overlords, food from the Continent will doubtless remain very much part of the fabric of our country).
Back to my worries, though... Fair enough, the food at La Casita will be different - think Spanish tapas with a slick approach to modern dining and some seriously outlandish artisan products (they plan to have Er Boqueron, a beer made from seawater, on tap, for example. It’s unpasteurised, unusual, completely off-the-map but completely marvellous at the same time).
La Casita’s coming heralds a new era for Horsforth. Miller trained with none other than Marco Pierre White and was headhunted by The Box Tree before striking out on his own. He’s a serious new era chef with peerless food and big plans.
So, where will that leave my beloved Cafe Marinetti, I wonder?
The fayre here is honest and hard-working... This is laid back dining with trustworthy service food you don’t have to worry about
It’s part of the fabric of the place. Horsforth’s Town Street is pretty crammed with restaurants, cafes and bars already, which makes for a great night out but the appearance of La Casita could be the footsteps of doom for some of them.
Then again, perhaps there will be room for all. Perhaps I am worrying needlessly. Maybe the arrival of La Casita will be a fillip for the town - as I am sure it will - and everyone will benefit. Time will tell.
Until it does, however, Cafe Marinetti is worth praising, because it’s good. Coming here is always satisfying. Service is slick, effortless, food is delivered promptly, even at the busiest of times and it’s also good.
We pitched unannounced, (we had intended to go to Il Forno further up Town Street but when we turned up, yes without booking, they were too busy) one day last week to find them pretty packed but the maitre’d did some mental arithmetic and quickly found us a table.
The atmosphere is great, relaxed, there’s a nice, settling hum of conversation, the tantalising smell of pizza, pasta sauce and meats emanating from the kitchen.
To start, we ordered the duck salad (£7.50) and the antipasto Italiano (£7.95). The duck was good. A deep blush pink in the centre with solid gamey flavours. If I’m perfectly honest, I’d have liked it cooked a little more on the outside. Some bits were a bit chewy but overall the dish worked well with the cherry tomato and mixed salad, enhanced as it was with a drizzle of pesto.
The antipasto was spot on - lovely spicy aromas dancing around the pallet, off-set by the smokiness of the cheese, which melted like cream in the mouth. A solid start.
For main I ordered fish kebab (one of the more expensive menu items at £16.95), which consisted of pieces of fish cooked in balsamic vinegar. It was a substantial portion, too, so great value for money, comprising cod, monkfish, squid and king prawns, all of which combined beautifully with a thin but well seasoned taste-of-the-sea sauce.
My partner went for linguine with mixed fresh fish (£9.95), which was also good: hot, dripping with flavour and delivering a decent savoury wallop.
We also ordered chocolate fudge cake (£7.95) and a black coffee (£3), which together with the other drinks (£13.75 in total), and a mixed salad and portion of chips (£2.95 each), brought the final bill to £72.95 for the two of us, but we had the two children with us, which actually brought the bill up to £88.75, plus a 10 per cent service charge of £8.87, making the final total £97.62.
There has been a lot of talk recently about service charges but it’s mainly been limited to how such gratuities are divvied up among staff and not necessarily whether we should pay them in the first place.
In this case, I’m firmly opposed to the obligatory service charge. Why not just put the prices up? Why deprive the customer of being able to make their own gesture? And, of course, as customers we’re never sure exactly where that money goes... Certainly, there’s a noticeably difference between £88 and £99, even if it is mostly a cerebral one.
The fayre here is honest and hard-working and so what if it’s not fine dining? This is laid back dining with trustworthy service and food you don’t have to worry about, because you know it will be satisfactory.
And therein lies its strength. Cafe Marinetti is a well oiled machine, or at least appears to be. It’s ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’, spilt wine down it, learned how to get the stain out so no-one notices... and so on. In other words, they know what they’re doing.
Which is why, in a funny old way, on reflection, I think they’ll be fine come what may. Times change, places open, others close, this is the way of the world but I think if experience counts for anything, then Cafe Marinetti will be here for some time yet.
Address: 9-11 Town Street, Horsforth, LS18 5LJ
Tel: 0113 281 8488
Opening times: Tuesday-Friday noon-2pm, 5pm-10.30pm, Saturday 5pm-10,30pm, Sunday 4pm-9pm, closed Mondays