Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Ecco Pizzeria - Headingley, Leeds

Myself, D and some other local food bloggers were invited along to sample some of Ecco's pizzas as well as bear witness to a live pizza making demonstration. 

Ecco Pizzeria is one of the places on my ever growing hit list (I'd need to eat out twice a week for a year to hit everywhere on that list), so needless to say I was very excited and joyed that they had invited me along. 

We were given a brief history of the foundations of the pizzeria, the chefs were Neapolitans, they had been to Naples to do extensive research (if anyone else is embarking on some pizza research in Italy feel free to tag me along), and they were certified Neapolitan pizzas by the Associazione Verace Napoletana. Apparently it is now a heritage food (the first that's been brought to my attention - maybe we could certify the Roast Dinner or the Yorkshire Pudding?) and the certification means that it has to be prepared in line with particular requirements such as the type of flour, the type of cheese, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil must be used. In addition to this all ingredients have to be natural and fresh, and the baking time of the pizza must not exceed 90 seconds within the stone wood fire oven. There are definitely some pretty passionate pizza people out there. 

We all gathered round to watch the live demonstration by the authentic Neapolitan chefs and I barely had time to get my camera out before he was popping the toppings on and then shovelling it in to the oven. 

We returned to our seats eagerly awaiting the first bite of the pizza which had been prepared before us. A simple Margherita using buffalo mozzarella. 

The cheese was creamy and rich, the crust crisp but doughy inside. 

The next pizza to reach our table was another variation on the Margherita this time using a smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese, and slightly less tomatoes. 

I enjoyed the smokiness of the cheese but I missed the sweetness of the tomatoes on the base of this pizza. 

From the articles which I have read it would seem that the Margherita is the top dog pizza of the Neapolitan breed. Further to this many articles state that Neapolitan pizzas should be simple and that the certified pizza variations are only Margheritas with slightly varying ingredients such as oregano and garlic instead of fresh basil, or the addition of bufala mozzarella. So it now surprises me that there are so many different topping pizzas on their menu, perhaps it's to please the masses. 

The Mexico City pizza was next to arrive, this is featured on their 'Pizza from around the World' menu and comes with strips of marinated chicken, roasted peppers, red onions, jalapeƱos, sour cream and avocado sauce. 

I'm not a massive fan of chicken on pizza, I guess because most of it is dry and tasteless. I'm also not a massive fan of red onion on pizza, a too caramelised onion in the past has put me off for life. Saying all of this it wasn't that bad, although I don't think it would be my first choice.

Another insanely topped pizza arrived next, the Marrakesh. I am a fan of a pizza topping, however these are overloaded pizza toppings, definitely not something you can pick up and eat with your hands (although you might try). Myself and Diane (who writes A Tale of Two Sittings) both agreed we preferred a simpler pizza with less toppings. 

It's difficult to pinpoint the toppings on this pizza from the picture but it was topped with slow cooked Moroccan spiced lamb, red onions, aubergines, peppers, feta cheese, parsley, mint, pomegranate seeds and olives! Immense. With so many flavours on one pizza I found it difficult to pull out each individual flavour for instance I didn't even realise that there was mint or aubergine on the pizza until I read it on the menu and then re-inspected my picture later. 

Another Margherita pizza was served next, their classic pizza the Margherita Ecco. I'm struggling to distinguish between the Magherita Ecco and the Margherita on their menu and I missed them telling us the difference... 

Admittedly I passed on this in favour of the pizza that was about to approach us.. a stuffed ricotta cheese crust pizza. 

I have to admit I am a sucker for a stuffed crust, I don't mean I suck the cheese from the crust, no I just can't help myself upgrading to a stuffed crust when there is the option (unless it's that weird hot dog option one of the big chains do... I'm not mad/obese), 

A few of the other bloggers tried to capture the cheese oozing out of the crust.. I just took a quick snap with my iPhone (having decided it is now better than my actual digital camera - spot the difference in this post between the two...) and waited patiently to have a slice. 

The ricotta stuffed crust is a strange texture when you're used to chewy plastic cheese, or mozzarella as I have tried at home. I couldn't quite make up my mind then whether I liked it or not and I'm still not sure now. If they want to send another one my way I will gladly test it again.. 

Although we were all pretty much stuffed by this point Diane asked if we could try out one of their gluten free pizzas and I was certainly intrigued to see what it would be like. 

Slightly charred in appearance it is made with rice flour to omit the gluten. It didn't taste anything like the doughy pizzas we had been consuming, it had a 'je ne sais quoi' taste. I couldn't quite place my finger on it, suggestions floated around of rice cakes, potato cakes, breakfast cakes. I think I've most likely tasted something similar in Indian cooking as I'm pretty sure I have some lying around in my cupboards from recipes. 

Lastly came dessert. A bit of a surprise, they make their own gelato on site in a range of flavours themselves. We had a few little pots to try out between us as well as a sorbet. D was in his element, ice cream is possibly his favourite food, if he could eat ice cream alone in his diet I think he would. 

The sorbet was so sweet I think the sweetness burnt off some of my taste buds. It was difficult to chose a favourite as they were all so good, I wasn't entirely convinced by the pistachio flavour as prefer this to be a savoury flavour rather than sweet, but that's my personal opinion as the girl next to D loved it. 

It was really nice of Ecco to host such a night for us 'pesky' food bloggers, I would definitely recommend you take a trip down to meet them yourselves. If not for their food just to feel their passion for the food (perhaps not the chefs, they were your typically moody Italian's), but yeah pretty much for the food. 

Ecco Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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