The addition of a new pizza parlour on Horsforth’s bustling Town Street might not immediately fill you with delight but Trattoria Il Forno, which has settled into one of the previously vacant units toward the top end of this road might change your mind.
Some still mourn the departure (some time ago now) of the much-loved quirky dining experience that was the Outside In and while its good the unit did not stand empty for long - Pizza Express snapping up the chance to grab a slice of the action - Horsforth has always shone out because of its eclectic mix of restaurants. All these years on, it shows us what Bramley ought to have been like before the powers that be sent in the bulldozers.
Horsforth seems to have an innate capacity for regeneration and Trattoria Il Forno is an example of that.
Granted, it has its fair share of charity shops and there’s a clutch of empty units toward the top end of the main street but if Il Forno is anything to go by, it’s still a place businesses believe is worth investing in and that can only be applauded.
Their main draw is it’s impressive wood-fired oven, which takes centre stage the moment you walk through the door.
We turned up mid-afternoon on Saturday last - just three weeks after the place opened - and we were warmly greeted.
The menu here is simple enough, concentrating on pizza and pasta, with a decent array of Italian salads and sundries. But the unique selling point is its 20-inch pizza, which is big enough to satisfy just about any appetite.
We kicked off proceedings by ordering a selection of items from the starter menu, including some marinated olives, rosemary and olive oil focaccia bread and a salad.
Our waiter also took our main course order at the same time.
There was no reason not to order the 20-inch pizza and being in the mood for something different, I went for the fig and goat’s cheese option, choosing to add mushrooms as an extra.
This 20-inch pizza came in at a not inconsiderable £14.35, plus an extra 80p for the mushrooms but if you don’t fancy filling an entire table with your main course, there are other options, including a bog standard 12-inch or ‘half a 20-inch’.
My dining partner had all’arrabbiata (home made Napoli sauce with pepperoni sausage and chilli (£7.95), which was wholesome and nourishing, the pasta cooked just right.
It was good to watch the kitchen staff preparing our food and flinging huge discs of dough into the air before covering them with ingredients and sliding them into the dome-shaped wood-fire oven.
Unfortunately, there was somewhat of a delay on our starters and when we enquired about this, it did appear staff had forgotten, because we were informed just a few moments later that the starters would come at the same time as the mains, which is hardly ideal - it’s just a good job we didn’t order something like soup to start.
When the big pizza arrived, I have to say, it was impressive, served up on a gigantic wooden platter which almost took up the entire table.
While my pizza was perfectly cooked, the base thin and crispy, a mere delivery system for the fresh ingredients, which practically danced off the plate.
I only managed to finish half my pizza but staff were happy to box it up to take home.
Part of me does wonder about the size of the pizzas and what you are supposed to do, say, if two or three people decide to order the same gargantuan meal, especially if they are sitting opposite one another but these are, after all, designed for sharing and, indeed, the atmosphere at Il Forno is convivial, relaxed and unhurried.
There’s no licence (yet) and they do charge a £2 corking fee for each bottle of wine (or litre of lager) you bring in.
That said, their own range of soft drinks we found reasonably priced, 330ml of cola costing just £1.
Feeling somewhat stuffed, we soldiered on and dived into desserts, me going for the Italian classic tiramisu (£4.50), my partner ice cream (£1.60 per scoop).
It’s worth noting the only other option on the dessert menu was an ice-cream sundae at £5.25. It would be good to possibly see another couple of options on there but perhaps this is something which will develop in time.
The tiramisu was masterful - moist with a rich coffee kick and a delightful creamy texture and I think I devoured the whole thing in under a minute.
Additionally, they also offer a children’s menu for a very reasonable £5.45, which includes a 9 inch pizza with three toppings, juice and scoop of ice-cream to finish.
Our total bill came to £44.45.
Trattoria Il Forno is a great addition to the dining scene in Horsforth - the restaurant is light and airy, staff friendly and accommodating and the menu is simple without being sparse.
The interior is sparsely decorated with clean, white lines tastefully broken up by sections of wall given over to decorative floor-to-ceiling log piles and, of course, that oven, the fuel for which can be seen stacked underneath.
It’s a nice take on what has become a British staple and I am sure the 20-inch option will go down a storm with the take-away market (I did notice one of the staff wielding some of the 20-inch pizza boxes).
If you don’t fancy tackling something so big, there’s a 12-inch option, and a ‘half-20-inch’ option.
On reflection, perhaps service needs a closer eye. During our meal I watched two staff members sit down to have a bite to eat (this while we waited for our starters) and the addition of a licence would, no doubt, be a fillip.
Overall, a cracking start from a little business which is thinking big both inside and outside the (pizza) box.
Address: Town Street, Horsforth
Opening times: xnoon-11pm (closed Mondays)
Tel: 0113 345 0150