THE RESTAURANT FOUNDED ON ANTONIA'S PASSION FOR FOOD
Antonia Carluccio was known as “The Godfather of Italian Gastronomy”. Starting from humble beginnings in London in 1991 with an Italian food shop and café. Carluccio went on to build a chain of restaurants, make films, T.V. programmes, create recipe books, and write and broadcast about his passion for the food of his home country, until he died three years ago.
Carluccio’s legacy of Italian food still lives on despite a large proportion of his restaurants being sold. I was lucky enough to meet and enjoy some of his favourite dishes prepared by the legend himself many years ago. He reminded me of everyone’s favourite uncle and his love of food was evident in every stir of his mixtures. It was an evening I would never forget.
Carluccio’s in Leeds is situated on the upper concourse in the Trinity Centre and is a favourite lunch and early evening eating place with both families, couples and ladies who lunch.
We visited early evening on a rather chilly night. The restaurant is light and airy with light wood tables and has all the signature décor of Carluccio’s restaurants plus small range of products. All social distancing and Government rules were adhered to and our table looked out over the centre.
There were few people in the restaurant yet other places seemed busy perhaps the bulk of the guests had dined earlier that night.
For our Antipasti course I chose Zuppa di Funghi, a rich soup made from an assortment of mushrooms including porcini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms that came with a rather strange homemade focaccia, that I feel had been around since breakfast time. Soup must be served hot but this was far from hot. The actual soup itself was very tasty and obviously homemade and the flavour of the mushrooms came through, however as it was not warm by the time I had had a few spoonfuls it became thick and lumpy.
My colleague did better with her Calamari Fritti, although the crispy squid rings were very hot but served on a cold plate. The squid rings were tasty and not rubbery with a very crispy batter, however the dressing of lemon mayonnaise was very bland.
The Antipasti I chose was off the menu and much to our surprise also were five of the pasta dishes leaving only three to choose from . The reason for this we were told was ordering and delivery.
My colleague chose the Gorgonzola Gnocchi with a rich gorgonzola and spinach sauce. It was a very large portion and the sauce had a very strong taste of the cheese which added a lot to the dish making it very flavoursome . As a side order she chose Tenderstem Broccoli served with chilli, garlic and flaked almonds. The garlic and chilli mixed well with the crunchy texture of the almonds and made it a very enjoyable side dish.
My Chicken Milanese was perfection. The chicken breast fillet was tender with a hot and crispy crust. It was served with slow roasted tomatoes topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano a tasty accompaniment and mixing of flavours.
Unfortunately, my side order of mixed salad did not fare as well as it was drenched in the balsamic dressing which made it practically inedible.
We always look forward to our dessert course but when they arrived they were some of the most disappointing we have experienced for some time.
There was little presentation, infact they looked as if they had been thrown together. My colleague had the Meringa Al Frutto Della Passione, which was supposed to comprise of passion fruit mascarpone cream topped with raspberries and raspberry coulis. There was no taste of passion fruit at all as the whole sweet had suffered an overdose of raspberry coulis and the strong taste of this overpowered everything.
My Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae comprised of half melted ice-cream, liquid like ricotta and cream cheese, some oat crumble and was doused in strawberry coulis and there was not a strawberry, as the menu suggested, in sight!
With so many Italian restaurants in the city Carluccio’s cannot rest on its laurels and the passion its food was given by its founder needs to return.
As we left the restaurant I couldn’t help think about the meal I enjoyed cooked by the master himself and thinking I wonder what Antonio would have thought about tonight’s offering.
Carluccio’s will continue to attract a following as its good value and its staff are friendly, informative and very welcoming.
Carluccio’s, Upper Concourse, The Trinity Centre, Leeds 1.
Open: Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm; Sunday 9.am – 8pm; Friday & Saturday 9am-10.pm
Tel: 0113 2469576