Taking time out for a slice of Italian escapism sounds like an appealing prospect to me.
Rico’s, in Oakwood, intends to offer just that – it even says so in the blurb of the north Leeds eatery’s menu.
It is a low key restaurant, with its simple terracotta exterior cosied up alongside a series of cafes and bars in Roundhay Road, just a stone’s throw from Roundhay Park.
In truth, it doesn’t promise much inside. There are marble-topped metal tables, orange leather covered seats, light grey walls, wood floors and an image of an Italian vista dominating one side of the room.
The split-level restaurant is pretty unspectacular yet by about 7.30pm on our Tuesday night visit, Rico’s was practically full with warmly received regulars.
We were shown to our window table for two by the extremely personable Italian waiter and perused a varied yet unsurprisingly classic menu full of pizza, pasta, fish, chicken and veal-based dishes.
There was an updated specials board as well as seemingly endless steak mains to choose from and more than a dozens starters from £3.80. There is certainly no shortage of options.
We decided to give a couple of the staple dishes a try during our fleeting review. Italian restaurants live and die by their pizzas and pasta.
I went for the Quattro Stagioni pizza [£8.95], which came generously topped with fresh salami, mushrooms, peppers, ricotta, tomato and mozzarella. The plate was dwarfed by the huge thin-based pizza that could easily have fed two people – but that didn’t stop me finishing the lot.
It felt authentic and was perfectly cooked – the floury base, sweet tomato and soft cheeses combining with the hot salami and crunch of the peppers perfectly.
My dining partner opted for the Cannelloni Ricotta E Spinaci [£8.95] which was oven baked and came drowned in a mix of rich, cheesy béchamel and napoletana sauces.
The collection of pasta tubes, handsomely filled with the spinach and ricotta mix soaked in an abundance of sauce, had a pleasantly surprising hint of garlic. It proved an indulgent take on a real Italian classic.
Settling down to our impressive dishes to a backdrop of traditional Italian music and friendly familiarity was a lovely way to spend an evening.
Our meal, including bottles of Strongbow cider [£3.10] and Appletiser [£1.95], came to a great value £22.95.
Rather than feeling like you’re beside the Med, Rico’s delivers the classics in a refreshingly simple and endearing way.
It may be short of luxury but it is not at all hard to see why Rico’s has such a loyal following.