Quite how it’s taken Little Oliver nearly a year since Sicilian street food marvel Poco opened to give it review space is beyond me.
To be clear, my latest trip was not my first visit to this small diner, which has improved the smell of Kirkstall Road by roughly 1,000 per cent.
I’ve found myself finding excuses to visit at every unreasonable opportunity since my first trip earlier this year.
It is the creation of the team behind Culto Italian kitchen and takeout in Meanwood, which expanded last year due to demand from customers.
Having had the good fortune to have visited Palermo shortly before Poco opened to a literal crowd of salivating punters in January, it was clear right away that the Leeds eatery embraced the best of modern Sicilian street food culture – one which has reportedly blossomed in recent years as the former city moves on from a troubled past.
The Leeds premises, constructed in a unit hit by the 2015 Boxing Day floods, has a small amount of seating, clean interior design, passionate chefs and staff – and just an irresistible choice of dishes to choose from.
Pizza is a must.
Slices seem to be created on whims or on a rotating basis, and on my most recent visit I went for a the ham, artichoke and black olive (£3.50).
My partner took the mushroom, having been impressed with it a number of times.
What’s incredible is the depth of flavour that simple vegetables take on – the tomato sauce base of pizzas, for example, could be the richest anyone will taste in the area.
This will be because ingredients are sourced from Italy, but I’m sure the experience, natural talent and ingenuity of the cooks is key.
Parmigiana (£6), a kind of vegetable lasagne layered with aubergine instead of pasta, is a remarkably dense slab of comfort, all the better for the odd burnt patch to complement the creamy sauce. It was wise to have shared this, as portions are good.
Meat and vegetarian arancini – stuffed risotto balls – are often available if you’re quick, as are calzones, lasagnes, sandwiches, chicken dishes and plenty of other staples.
To finish, I had a hazelnut chocolate-filled cannoli miniature (£1.50) – what else?
On our latest visit, the only possible setback was us being, for most of our meal, the only customers inside. But this was the kind of midweek evening where the first truly cold blast of winter sends people fleeing towards home for sanctuary.
For us, that was found in Poco, one of a few new or re-established eating venues on this stretch of Kirkstall Road, and it won’t be our last visit before the year is out.
Address: 360 Kirkstall Rd, Leeds LS4 2HQ