Open for just a few months in Leeds, Stuzzi has had a successful outlet in Harrogate for several years.
Short for Stuzzini - small plates of Italian food served in bars between meals, similar to tapas - the group of friends behind it have links to Headingley institution Salvo’s.
They’ve made their restaurant, deli, cafe and wine bar in Merrion Street, in a unit that had been home to the ill-fated Ham and Friends.
The Harrogate restaurant has featured in the Michelin and Good Food Guides, so it certainly comes with a good pedigree.
Tucked away at the bottom of Merrion Street and without much signage outside, you might be forgiven for not noticing Stuzzi.
Once inside and up the stairs however, they’ve made the most of this interesting building with its arched window that looks out over Vicar Lane - the decor a mix of modern and rustic.
It’s quiet on a Wednesday lunchtime when we visit, so some of the more upbeat songs playing jar slightly, but we’re made to feel very welcome by our friendly waitress, who tells us a bit about the restaurant, the ethos behind it and gives handy tips on how many plates we should order.
What’s the menu like?
The menu changes regularly depending on what’s available to the experienced and passionate chefs, with the best Italian meats, seafood and cheeses ending up on the plate that day.
Impressively, pasta, breads and sweets are made on site.
My guest and I have twelves dishes to choose from, with prices ranging from £6.50 to £14. Our waitress advises us to pick three to share and see how we feel, but to get a bigger flavour of much of the menu, we go for the Gusto Grande, a large sharing plate made up of six of the dishes available.
Onto the food
The food itself was almost uniformly delicious.
Creamy gorgonzola topped the wonderful fresh bread on the bruschetta, there was plenty of rich San Marzano tomato sauce with the Venetian style beef and mortadella meatballs, and the arancini is crisp on the outside and full of flavour within.
The fritto misto didn’t have quite the variety of fish we were expecting, but the accompanying lemon and caper aioli was just right.
The beer battered cuttlefish croquettes with squid ink and smoked cod roe was pleasant and a crisp and fruity salad went well with all the dishes
We also shared a capunti pasta dish with roasted venison sausage, meat broth, salami and roasted fennel, which was fantastic.
By this point, we were both stuffed, so no room for dessert.
I chose a small glass of the Planeta La Segreta to wash it down, dry and smooth, and reasonable at £4.50.
Value for money?
Our total bill came to £34 with the wine. Sometimes small plates can feel lacking, but £15 each on quality Italian food and full stomachs feels like excellent value.
Address: 7 Merrion Street, LS1 6PQ
Telephone: 0113 245 5323
Opening hours: Wednesday - Sunday: 12pm-4pm and 5.30pm-10pm.
Facebook: Stuzzi Leeds
Atmosphere 6 /10
Service 8 /10