How Leeds Italian restaurant Livin' Italy is keeping food simple but tasty at Granary Wharf
Unable to speak to its integrity, it is clear to see the trio of passion, simplicity and tradition woven into the fibres of Livin' Italy.
Set inside the beating heart of Leeds city centre's now-booming waterside hub at Granary Wharf, the first of the brand's restaurants has continued as a firm favourite for foodies with a flair for Italian.
It's worth noting that this eatery actually bills itself as an "Italian kitchen, bar and deli".
Livin' Italy is based on Leeds's 'piazza'-style square at Granary Wharf, diagonally facing Hilton's Double Tree Hotel.
There's a good cluster of seats outside and, as we visit on a warm summer's afternoon for lunch, it is full to the brim with a scattering of guests - many of whom are sipping down an Aperol Spritz with their food.
Inside the decor is quite hip, cool and rustic.
Though be warned: it is cramped. There is a scattering of tables downstairs.
We've got a table upstairs and are led around a winding counter around the corner and up the staircase.
There's surprisingly more room upstairs.
There's spare tables that don't fill up while we're eating but the waitress for some reason seats us next to the toilet.
For almost every single dish, there's an 'eat in' and 'eat out' price (roughly £1-2 less to eat out), which is actually a breath of fresh air to see.
It's a great menu. For those who are not craving a fully-fledged meal, there's plenty of options lunch-wise.
It offers a selection of reasonably-priced 'paninis', 'small plates' and 'street food' (which we don't try but appear to be miniature versions of other dishes. There's also sharing platters for two people or more.
Obviously, as an Italian specialist, there's Italy-inspired cuisine aplenty.
We spot a few pizzas from our table, including a calzone, that look delicious.
I go for the Livin' Italy Burger (at £12.95). Billed as "Our Beef burger, salad, tomato, Fontina cheese, mayonnaise, caramelized shallots & fries". In true awkward style, I respectfully ask for this serving without cheese.
For what must be the first time anyone has ever asked in a restaurant, the waitress replies: "Certainly - preference or allergy?". More plus points earned.
For her main, my other half samples the 'spicy' Rustic Bread Panini.
These, we see from the menu, are served only froom noon-3pm. We sat down at 4pm, so ask the waitress if it is possible.
She checks with the chef and, with a smile, informs us that it's not a problem.
The Livin' Italy Burger (without cheese) and its accompanying fries, is a tasty, well-rounded meal. The beef is cooked to perfection, soft and delicious and the fries are slightly salted and a touch crispy.
My other half's panini ("Grilled chicken, crispy Italian pancetta, spicy tomato sauce"), in fact, resembles an oblong-shaped burger. I'm told it is delicious and my dining partner is more than satisfied.
As mentioned earlier, there's Aperol aplenty dotted around the restaurant on this summery afternoon.
I opt for a pint of the draft beer - Nostra Birra - (at £4.60). Refreshing.
My other half goes for a pinot grigio rosé.
Quick, attentive and efficient, without rushing.
Big pluses for asking about allergies and preferences (you would think this is just a mandatory given nowadays - but it really isn't) and for continuing lunch items after 3pm.
Overall, a lovely dining experience that offers the authenticity of Italian cuisine in a vibrant city centre venue. a