Review: Ecco Pizzeria, Headingley, leeds

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According to a brief history printed on one of the walls at Ecco, archaeologists have discovered evidence that pizza-like food was being eaten centuries before the birth of Christ.

Soldiers from the Persian empire apparently used their shields as a base to bake a kind of flat bread topped with cheese and dates as early as 6BC.

But it wasn’t until the 16th century that the term ‘pizza’ was used to describe a similar dish.

Anyone from Naples would tell you that the Italian city was the birthplace of the food we now know as pizza.

While many have tried to reinvent the wheel in the last 100 years, purists argue that true pizza has its roots in cooking techniques dating back long before the advent of multi-national restaurant chains.

The chefs at Ecco are purists.

You won’t find crusts stuffed with cheese here; no deep-pan options anywhere on the menu.

Authentic pizza using top-quality ingredients baked in a traditional wood-fired oven is the simple ethos. After all, why try to fix something that was never broken to start with?

The simplicity of the approach extends to the design of the interior. The restaurant is a little more spacious than it looks from the outside, allowing room for a good number of wooden tables and chairs, banquette seating along one wall and the open kitchen.

As well as the pizza history lesson, the walls are lined with framed statements reiterating the commitment to the Ecco ideology.

Other than pizzas, diners can select chicken in a variety of guises if they wish, though why you’d make that decision is beyond me.

The pizzas come as a traditional 12-inch circle, or as a half-metre flat bread which can be covered in two different toppings.

I had the 12-inch pesto pizza, which came with tomatoes, roasted peppers, goats cheese and basil, on a pesto rather than tomato base.

My dining partner’s ‘Ecco’ pizza, on a tomato base, was topped with strips of chicken, peppers and mushrooms.

The toppings on both were very good – the ingredients and their preparation of the highest order – but it is the quality of the pizza bases that make the difference at Ecco.

Cooked in less than 90 seconds, they are wafer thin and slightly elastic in the centre but thicker, blistered and a touch charred around the crust. Perfection.

We also had a mozzarella side salad, which came with huge slabs of wonderfully creamy cheese, tomato and lettuce drizzled with olive oil and pesto.

With a couple of soft drinks the bill came to a little under £25.

There are some very good Italian restaurants in Leeds, serving very good pizza, but we struggled to remember having enjoyed better.

Indeed, according to one Italian Oliver knows, Ecco offers about as close as you’ll get in this city to the real deal.

By going back to basics, the owners have laid the foundations for a successful future.

Rating: 4/5