Aperitivo is a slightly unexpected sight in the heavily residential area of West Park.
On a chilly, dark evening, the little unit with its windows strewn in fairy lights is welcome among the surrounding convenience shops and houses.
If it was a few minutes down the road in Headingley where such establishments are ten a penny, you might not look twice, but here it looks the picture of cosiness.
Fans of Vice and Virtue may be interested that it was owner and chef Luke Downing that developed Aperitivo – formerly Dough Bistro – after running the city centre restaurant as well as Nineteen at Leeds Golf Centre.
It specialises in Italian food, wine and cocktails, and the good menu intrigued me and a friend enough to make the trip.
Weeknight trade in this location doesn’t seem to be alive and kicking – the trouble with an isolated, suburban plot, I imagine – and we’re the only two customers when we arrive.
Another pair come in straight after us, which is a relief. Though the lights above our booth are bright enough to make me squint, which isn’t.
And while a playlist of 1980s pop music will always be welcomed by me, I’m not sure it quite fits the mood of this place.
The waitress serving us, however, is cheerful and attentive.
But on to the food. We start by sharing dough balls with black fondue and Parmesan (£3). These look appetising, with the heavy grating of cheese covering the golden brown balls.
There’s a slight crunch on the outside, which works nicely, but I’m not sure the end product is as fresh as it could be and the fondue didn’t add a great deal, we felt. For my main, it was a choice between the porchetta with black pudding tapenade, soft herbs, apple and mustard, or the house special pizza (£11). The latter is partly stuffed with black pudding with mozzarella, tomato sauce, parma ham, truffle, mushroom, onion and artichoke. I’m pretty keen on everything listed, though I’m wondering whether put together they works or if it’s overkill, but I take the risk.
My partner opts for the baked black truffle mac and cheese with croutons and chives (£10), which sounds brilliant. The pizza is good. If there’s any issue it’s not one of flavour, which is pleasant and as imagined, but of texture – with so many ingredients it can take a while to make your way through each bite. The black pudding and sweet onions were highlights. The mac and cheese was enjoyable, I’m told, but my friend cut up the chives into smaller pieces. For dessert we wanted the Panettone bread and butter pudding, but they were out of it, so we settled for a pair of macchiatos (£2.25 each).
Address: 293 Spen Lane, Leeds LS16 5BD