Leeds is a city of many, many Italian restaurants and I seem to have eaten at a fair few of them, yet until now, I had never been to Ecco Pizzeria in Headingley. They say that you cannot undo your mistakes but if I could I would go back in time and discover this delightful, authentic and independent restaurant from the very beginning of my time in Leeds as it really does offer some fabulous food.
Last night, we were invited to a great event at the restaurant, which kicked off with a demonstration of exactly how they make their pizza.
The staff clearly have a huge passion for pizza, having spent time in the Neapolitan region of Italy, where they’ve sourced the best local ingredient suppliers. The experienced chefs making the pizzas are given the respect they deserve, the manager referring to them as the name given in Naples: Pizzaolio. The skill they demonstrate working with ovens reaching 1000 degrees, cooking pizzas expertly in under two minutes mean they are more than worthy of their title!
Placing itself (in the crowded Italian market) as the pizza and gelato go to restaurant of Headingley when Domino’s (students ahoy!) and Salvos (many years of great reviews and with a great reputation) are right on its doorstep is a bold move but being bold is what this place seems to be about. Offering a selection of fresh pizzas that really do hit the spot, cooked in the only wood fired pizza oven in Leeds (the parts were brought over from Italy and put together here over the course of a fortnight), Ecco do not hold back with their rustic, bold flavours and appearance.
Having been lucky enough to spend a month in Italy I can safely vouch that the flavours they create as well as the textures and even the appearance really do resemble that true Neapolitan tradition.
The pizzas come either as individual 12 inch pizzas or as half metre pizzas, with the option to change toppings every quarter metre. This means that they are the ideal pizza for a family or friends sharing a casual meal out. For those of you who love pizza but also have a sweet tooth there is an added bonus of exceptional freshly made gelato (made on site) for pudding!
Let’s take a closer look at the different pizzas we sampled last night:
A really fantastic pizza that lets the buffalo mozzarella and fresh, sweet (no sugar added or required) San Marzano tomatoes shine through. The fresh basil really enhanced the beautiful freshness of the pizza. If I am honest, this was mine and Charlotte’s favourite pizza.
Beautiful and a real traditional style Italian pizza. Forget the tomato sauce, this pizza just jumps in there with really good quality extra virgin olive oil, then the flavour of the stunning smoked mozzarella hits you before the cherry tomatoes really deliver the knockout blow. A definite must for those wanting a bit of a traditional experience.
My personal favourite of the ’round the world’ collection of pizzas that we sampled. A real nice spicy kick to the flavour from the jalapenos combined with the succulent chicken and excellent collection of fresh veg was topped off by an interesting avocado and sour cream sauce. A fine pizza but I might have ditched the avocado and sour cream for some chilli oil…then again I do love my spice more than most!
Normally I would steer well clear of a pizza that has the title Marrakesh. Here, that would have been an error on my part. Feta is not my favourite cheese but when combined with tender and well spiced lamb along with some beautiful fresh vegetables and pomegranate seeds it really hits a winning combination. Don’t be afraid to try this if you’re feeling like being different!
A very good pizza and for those of you just looking to keep the cost down you can’t go wrong here. For me personally, splash the cash and go for the Margherita Ecco as the buffalo mozzarella just adds that bit more flavour to the dish.
Margherita Ecco with a ricotta cornice:
For me a stuffed crust (or in this case a cornice) evokes ideas of awful cheese forced into stodgy dough or the bizarre idea of shoving frankfurters inside the crust of a pizza (why bother, Domino’s?!) and is therefore pretty abhorrent to me. Credit to Ecco, they manage to undo this damage with a lovely light dough that really shows off the skill of the Pizzaolio. They manage to keep the light fresh dough tasting fantastic and yet pack in the creamy taste of the ricotta. If you feel like being indulgent then this may be for you – Charlotte loved this one!
I am not a coeliac but I have friends who are and so I know about the struggle to get good pizza. It is by their own admission not 100% a finished article yet but the gluten free pizza was not one to turn your nose up at. Yes, the rice flour cooks too quickly, yes the appearance could be better, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: it tastes really rather good. Offering a slightly flat bread style texture and a bit more sweetness than the regular dough, I cannot fault the efforts being made to make pizza more accessible to coeliacs by the team at Ecco. I believe they will continue to build on this excellent start to overcome the challenges posed by a super hot wood fired pizza oven using non standard dough!
To round off our meal, even though we were stuffed, we were presented with several little bowls of creamy gelato. Simply put, they were delicious! The pistachio flavour was a real highlight (it’s made of real, crushed Italian pistachios), although the cookies and cream and chocolate and hazelnut were also delicious. We could have eaten a whole tub of each flavour! The texture of the gelato was far richer and creamier than normal ice cream, and it made us look forward to the summer when we can pop into Headingley for a gelato treat!
With all of this in mind, I am certain I will be back to Ecco or perhaps if I feel lazy I may just order their takeaway service, as this (in my humble opinion) is the best pizza in Leeds!
Categories: Restaurant reviews