Restaurant review: Da Mario, The Headrow, Leeds

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THE good old fashioned rustic Italian pizzeria is a luxury that isn’t in abundance in Leeds city centre.

Granted there are a number of chain outlets like Pizza Express and Zizzi, as well as few higher end restaurants but the small selection of tasty Italians means the city’s diners are not exactly spoilt for choice.

So on approaching the slightly weathered doors of the Italian stalwart of Da Mario, in The Headrow, hopes were pinned on capturing a little taste of Italy.

The restaurant, which opened in the city in 1976, looks pretty well-used and quite old fashioned, with an old tiled floor, terracotta walls and a part open kitchen that has a mock roof tiled on to it.

But despite its quite rugged interior there are some redeeming aesthetic features in its quite modern-looking comfy red and black leather seating.

It’s a self styled trattoria, meaning it’s supposed to be less formal than a restaurant but more so than a cafe, and you certainly get that impression when you walk in.

The staff are friendly, well dressed and give you prompt service with a smile straight from the get go.

The menu is predictably Italian and features a good range of pastas, pizzas, seafood and meat dishes.

So to start we ordered a shared portion of Pollo Goujon, which are breaded chicken strips served with salad and garlic butter, and in all honesty they were quite bland and not worthy of the £5.95 price tag.

To follow that up I wisely plumped for a Diavola pizza, topped with pepperoni, spring onions and jalapeno peppers.

The pizza was delicious, sizeable and hot enough to warm your pallet but not leave you gasping for air.

My companion decided on a Cannelloni, which is rolled pasta filled with minced beef and spinach covered in tomato and a creamy bechamel sauce.

It was just about big enough, really flavoursome and more than made up for the tasteless starter.

Along with a glass of lemonade and diet Pepsi, the bill came to an expensive £29 as a 10 per cent gratuity charge had been added to the bill.

So all in all the main courses were a delight and full of that hearty Italian flair that you want from an informal family-run eatery but Da Mario is by no means perfect.

The decor is quite dated and the ambitious pricing puts it in competition with restaurants that offer a better all round experience.

PIC: Bruce Rollinson

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