I’ll confess that I am no snob when it comes to pizza. Come one and all, and I will eat you. Simple, authentic Italian wood-fired beauties. Daunting USA-style barbecue meat and cheese behemoths. Late-home-from-work, stuffed-crust, last-ditch supermarket cheapos to slither down in front of iPlayer. There is a special place my heart for all of you.
Not so for the owners of Headingley’s Ecco Pizzeria, which is evangelical about serving customers true Neapolitan fare only, made from ingredients shipped over from the motherland.
So strict is this place about its adherence to authenticity, its website has a section on ‘Food Philosophy’ which includes an ‘Anatomy of the Pizza’ diagram showing people exactly – down to the length in centimetres the crust should be – what they are meant to look like.
It even offers a pizza-making courses, complete with an exam, to the tune of £1,500.
All this showing off has me a bit excited, so a friend and I head there after a week night drink to see if it really is – as a board outside the restaurant asks you to consider – the best pizza in Leeds.
We’re invited to sit down straight away, and choose a good spot next to the window. The wood burner stands proudly at the back as chefs attentively beaver away at a counter. Despite the talk about Neapolitan precision, there’s creativity here – the menu is extensive and offers a few left-field choices for those who fancy something a bit rogue.
We start with dough balls, five of which come alongside a garlic dip. These are fresh as can be, warm and soft on the inside with a few nicely charred spots on the outside. The intense – and generously portioned - dip really makes it.
On to the mains. I go for a 12-inch Napoli: tomatoes, anchovies, capers and black olives, topped with mozzarella and oregano. My friend opts for the Funghi: roasted mushrooms, fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella.
The dough is really lovely, with a choice combo of crunch and chewiness, and sparse blobs of cheese. As to be expected, mine has a very strong, salty flavour, which at times is overwhelming but generally as desired. The Funghi is well-received too.
Ecco is a small space, with tables fit tightly together. You can probably hear too much of other people’s conversations, but equally you’re never craning your neck round too far to catch the waitress’ attention. It is an alcohol-free zone, however, which comes as a bit of a surprise not only to us, but the table next door as well.
The cost is £23.50 for everything, including a soft drink too. Maybe it’s time to embrace pizza snobbery after all. They do takeouts...