For somewhere that has only been open a matter of weeks, Prezzo really has got its act together.
The Italian-style restaurant, done out in understated browns and soft sandy textures, is part of the White Rose Centre’s recent £7m redevelopment and sits conveniently in the expanded foyer of the out-of-town shopping mecca.
It’s bang opposite Wok N’ Go and Nandos and just round the corner from the Handmade Burger Co, which tells you something about the kind of direction the powers that be are wanting to take the shopping centre.
Right from the start, Prezzo impresses, not just with its looks and laidback feel but also with the service, which comes with an unforced smile and a genuine warmth.
We turn up on a weekday just as the afternoon is giving way to evening. The place is quiet but there’s a nice ambience. We are greeted by the maitre’d and shown to a table on a balcony overlooking the main eating area and offered menus.
The operation is slick. From our vantage point, we can appreciate the venue, which is elegant and unobtrusive, a slender silver-topped bar in one corner, behind which one can glimpse the chefs at work. Everything is spotlessly clean, cutlery gleams, it’s everything you could want from a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the shopping areas.
The restaurant has a good range of starters, including grilled goat’s cheese, tricolore salad and calamari, all for under £6. However, it’s the pre-starter section which really tempted. The bread board (£5.25), which came with tomato and pesto bread, mozzarella and garlic bread, ciabatta and rosemary flatbread with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, was everything you could expect - the only thing missing was al fresco dining. That said, the ceilings in Prezzo are high and airy, which always helps to set the mood.
Our other starter was a small caesar salad, which, granted, was not from the starter menu but from the extras section, but our view was nothing should be off limits and at £3.95 it was great value for money and a good example of how simple done well never fails to impress.
In fact, throughout all of our dishes, the chef’s ‘light touch’ was apparent, which is in essence what Italian cuisine is all about.
Prezzo has a more than generous selection of mains and yet still manages to keep its menu sleek and brief. There are around a dozen pizza offerings, with an innovative twist on how they are served, the options being ‘classic’, ‘light’, which is a smaller pizza served with a dressed salad, and VIPizza, for the larger appetite. Most of those are under £10, and include such divine-sounding creations as steak and rocket pizza (£13.50) and prawn and lobster pizza (£13.75) from the ‘executive pizza’ section.
My partner was tempted by the pizzas and ordered a calzone carne piccante (£11.25). It didn’t disappoint, being nice and crisp on the outside and oozing with flavour on the inside. Quite often with calzones, the dough can end up being your enemy as you battle through it or it’s just not cooked enough. Here, though, the dough was thin and easy to deal with and more than just a container for the glorious ingredients within.
I ordered spaghetti carbonara (£9.25), Pancetta bacon in a traditional carbonara sauce with crispy prosciutto ham. Again, nice and light, flavours combining like a well-rehearsed choir.
Desserts include the wonderful-sounding honeycomb smash cheesecake (£5.20), milk and chocolate fudge cake and panettone bread and butter pudding (all £5.20) but this reviewer has to admit that, by the time it came to order them, we were stuffed to the rafters. Personally, I blame the bread board we chose for our starter, which was one of those dishes you could just eat and eat again (and again).
The standard of food brought to our table was superb - each dish had its own stand-out qualities but throughout the flavours were allowed to burst through. It’s food cooked with passion and which has been allowed to show off all its attributes, the expert chefs behind the scenes more guiding it in the right direction than creating anything. And therein lies the skill of what they do, because while the food looks simple and tastes great, there’s a talented hand (or two) at work behind the scenes, ensuring the whole culinary orchestra comes together on time.
Together with drinks (a light, crisp sauvignon blanc at £4.20 a glass and Peroni at £4.35 a pint) and some sundries like house fries £3, our bill came to a staggeringly reasonable £41.25.
You could safely add another £10 for desserts and, if you were there for the night, I dare say the bill might double with drinks but given this is the kind of place which is going to benefit from passing trade and people just nipping in for a quick bite to eat pre or post shopping, the prices really have been screwed down tight and are as lean as some of the menu offerings.
Prezzo is a wonderful addition to the Leeds dining scene and it brings a new lease of life to the White Rose Centre, which is in the midst of large-scale transformations, some of which will, at some point, see a cinema complex built up there.
Together with the other elements of the £7m redevelopment of the food court area, there’s little to criticise at Prezzo.
Finally, a word on service, which throughout was exemplary and although we had different waiters, they all somehow seamlessly meshed together, the onus being on making sure our food and drinks appeared promptly and in style.
Whether you happen to stumble upon it while shopping or you go there on purpose, Prezzo is well worth a few hours of your life.