Saturday, 1 October 2011

Da Mario's - Leeds

Da Mario's on the Headrow in Leeds has become as much as an recognised feature of the high street as the barrel man.. but yet how many people have actually eaten there?

This restaurant has been here as long as I have been alive! Founded in 1976 it's website claims it is Leeds' 'longest established Italian Trattoria' (for those of you who are unsure what this means a Trattoria is an Italian type of eating establishment, it is less formal than a restaurante but more formal than a cafe type 'osteria'). Da Mario's is now under new management which I expect is the reason it has had a bit of a re-fit inside. If you had walked in to there prior to this it was like walking in to a time warp to the 70's it seemed to have stood still in time.
I have visited Da Mario's twice, once before the new management took over and once before. Having done a bit of research before writing this post it would seem that there were some dodgy dealings going on before new management took over with the previous directors being struck off by the insolvency service...

The reviews on trip advisor and other review websites are mainly... well rather bad to be honest! Occasionally there are some good ones but mainly there are bad ones. However I tend to not take in every word that reviews on such sites say as when you think about it... when do your average Joe's (by average Joe's I mean none food/restaurant blogging types) actually decide to review a restaurant online? When do they feel so strongly about something that they need to write about it?? When their emotions are flaring and raring.. when they're pissed off!!! I use this mentality when reading reviews about anything. Most people decide to write a review in replace of complaining to the company.. how many people actually write and complain to places these days? Instead they decide to try and hit them hardest, complain in public where everyone can see it!!

Anyway I'm going off topic.

I have decided to review Da Mario's not taking in to account any previous experiences or in light of anyone else's feelings on the place.

We decided to go to Da Mario's on a Sunday afternoon needing a large meal to fill us up for the day as this day in Sunny September we were going to see the Kaiser Chiefs. There was no way we were going to pay for food whilst we were there... not that I would want to eat some of the food that was there, anaemic chips greasy burgers and doughnuts....

Anyway going off topic again.

We entered the 'Trattoria' and were greeted by a friendly young man who showed us to a couple of tables and let us have our choice of which to sit at (always nice to have a choice when it's less busy). I noticed immediately that there had the place had had a bit of a make over. I have slightly mixed emotions about this the old style not changed throughout the years sort of made it quite 'shabby chic', whereas the new splash of paint and furniture makes it look at little more up to date and fit it's Trattoria description.

However they have kept the same theme on the menus and the offers are still available plus they haven't changed that iconic front that faces out on to the Headrow.

The waiter came over and asked us (in a what appeared to be an Italian accent?) if we were ready to order drinks. As usual we asked what the non-alcoholic options were and we were told soft drinks and J20, my friend ordered a coke. The waiter then turned to me and I obviously had an uncertain look on my face.. and he said it's OK if you have a glass of wine.. and I looked at the waiter and said actually what I really want is a cup of tea. He smiled and laughed to himself a little and said of course cup of tea coming up!

There was definitely more sugar than I needed, but as tea goes it was a good cup.

Once our drinks arrived we were ready to order. For starters we decided to share a Focaccia Suprema.

I am always honest on my blog, and honestly speaking this wasn't the best Focaccia Suprema I have ever tasted the dough could have been improved by being a little lighter it adds that crispness to the edges too. However the toppings were full of flavour. The tomatoes sweetness and flavour really shone through there was a lot of garlic but it wasn't too powerful the cheese was delicately used and didn't hide the bread and leave it in a big greasy mess.

For my main I ordered Diavola.

It isn't the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. It's not like the pizza's you get in chain-restaurants (naming no names here) where they always look perfect and the same every time. I don't need my pizza to look perfect I just need it to taste good. The toppings on my pizza were spicy pepperoni sausage, spring onions, jalapeƱo peppers, mozzarella, tomato sauce and oregano. It was definitely spicy but not too spicy it warmed my mouth just nicely. The pepperoni was of good quality not plastic like but full of meaty spicy flavour. The pizza was cooked just right it wasn't burnt round the edges or soggy in the middle (massive pet hate of mine) and I almost finished it all.

My friend ordered Quattro Salami ....

Their pizza consisted of spicy meatballs, pepperoni, salami napoli, ham, mozzarella, tomato sauce and oregano. The spicy meatballs were a little spicy for their delicate palate but they handled them well. I think they really enjoyed his pizza as they barely spoke whilst they devoured it and cleared the whole plate (sparing the crusts, they never eats their crusts...)

 We were given new knives for our pizza's that resembled steak knifes which was greatly appreciated as I have been to other places where I am just left with my standard knife and fork and get arm ache from hacking in to it so much!

As both our pizza's were a little spicy we decide to order some additional drinks, I ordered a fruit juice and some tap water. It took a little while to get the waiters attention but that was because he was always doing something. I don't mind waiting for service if the waiters are actively doing something, I really hate it when you have a restaurant full of serving staff who are stood around not doing anything or stood chatting and you can't get their attention. Each time he came to our table he apologised for our short wait and rushed off and presented us with whatever we needed promptly.

What I did notice was that their kitchen is half open so you can see part of the cooking process. What I especially liked was that the chef checked each individual dish and pizza with the manager first before giving it to the serving staff to ensure it was up to scratch.

We didn't eat dessert as we were far too full and time was pushing us to get moving to catch a bus down to Kirkstall Abbey for the Kaisers gig. The tip was included on the bill but it did also say this was optional. We left a little bit extra as they were really friendly and it was nice to see an organised smoothly running restaurant.

It's a shame that Da Mario's previous management have created so many negative reviews and that these reviews appear prominently when you Google search Da Mario's with Da Mario's own restaurant being so low down in the list on Google search that it doesn't even appear on the first page. So if you struggling to find the webpage here it is..

An American couple dining at the same time as us (and Americans know their pizza's) got up after their meal and shook the managers hand saying that they had a lovely meal and did they do takeaway? To which their response was we do takeaway but collection only. The American guy said he would definitely make the trip to collect and gave the manager a bit hearty slap of the back .

It definitely meets it's description of being less formal than a restaurante but more formal than a simple cafe. It's not a first dater, more like a nice meal to collapse in to after a hard days shopping in the city centre. It's not pretentious and doesn't try to be anything it isn't take it for what it is and you will have a good time and a nice meal.

What are your views on Da Mario's? Have you ever been or has it been one of those places that's always been in your peripheral vision but never drew your attention?

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