This week, Little Oliver visited La Fiamma in Roundhay Road, Leeds, a new kid on the block which is aiming to make its mark on the city’s Italian offering, as well as bringing a taste of the Med to the inner city.
The building housing La Fiamma - which translates literally as ‘the flame’ in Italian - has gone through so many changes in recent years it’s hard to keep up.
But its latest incarnation as an Italian restaurant may well be the most successful chapter so far in its seeming spinning wheel of metamorphoses.
Based in the heart of Roundhay Road, it sits nestled in a parade of eateries which offer Middle Eastern shwarma, South Asian classics, Afghan delicacies, a dessert bar that is a sugar-addict’s delight and the ubiquitous chicken and chips. Some might call it fusion - others might say it borders on confusion.
The previous two incumbents of the La Fiamma building were ‘peri peri’ type chicken emporia.
The restaurant opened less than a year ago, and judging by its reviews on social media, is building up a steady base of returning and happy clientele.
I decided to pop in for a weekday lunch and found the place busy if not brimming. It was school holidays, and a family of five were happily munching away in the corner.
The decor is fairly simple, with attempts made to offer a Mediterranean vibe, but a little half heartedly perhaps.
The menu offering is quite varied, with Italian staples like pizza, a range of pasta and a small seafood selection all calling out to us. Classics like seafood spaghetti, meatballs and lasagne sit alongside a variety of pizzas.
I opted for the Tortelloni Verdi Con Crema Al Basilico, priced £8.79. This was large green pasta parcels filled with spinach and ricotta in a creamy Parmesan and basil sauce.
I have to say I was deeply disappointed with this.
The pasta was overcooked and mushy and the sauce was a weird, flavourless slop. The ricotta and spinach filling was tasty but it was overshadowed by the dish’s other failings.
My companion chose a Bombay Spice Pizza priced £8.99, and the contrast between the two dishes could not have been more stark.
This was spicy chicken tikka, tomato, pepper, red onion, cheese, olives and the temptingly named Bombay sauce.
The base was thin and beautifully crisp, and every singe element of the topping was delicious.
The restaurant boasts proudly of its wood fired pizzas and it’s obvious to see why.
The pizza had been cooked to perfection in just 10 minutes. An additional spicy side sauce added extra piquancy.
Our bill, with a soft drink each, was just over £20.
I would have been happy to pay that were it not for the disappointing pasta.
A fair bit of fine tuning is clearly needed in this department, but the pizzas are an absolute winner.
In a city with a long-standing pedigree of fine Italian dining, this new kid on the block has a big uphill battle to compete.
But there’s no doubting it adds something different to the growing offering in this part of inner city Leeds which could galvanise interest in the area.