Stuzzi review: Authentic Italian food in the heart of Leeds that’s a must visit
Stuzzi has earned a reputation for offering a true haven of Italian cuisine without the need to board a hellish Ryanair flight from LBA to Venice.
We visited on a Sunday afternoon, keen to try their Stuzichini which the restaurant describes as ‘ Small plates of Italian cuisine traditionally eaten by hand, between two glasses to “keep in shape”. As it was a Sunday, Stuzzi offered his Italian version of the Sunday roast on the menu.
Read more: Best restaurant in Leeds named in awards
I chose the porchetta – and it was quite outstanding. Roasted pork belly stuffed with sausage, fennel and chilli. Served with balsamic onions and guanciale roast potatoes (£9.50). I know it’s a cliché to say the meat has fallen apart, but it really is. The pork belly was exceptionally tender with three shiny onions on top. It was surrounded by a moat of oily sauce that had soaked the roast potatoes, making them full of flavor and texture.
It was simply a fantastic dish and I would recommend it to anyone. I’m sorry to blaspheme in the presence of the good people of Leeds, but I would choose the porchetta over a Sunday roast anytime. Stuzzi’s pappardelle (£12.50) was another highlight of the meal. Homemade pappardelle mixed with braised venison from the Harewood estate and pork stew, flavored with juniper and fennel. Finished with salami and pecorino romano.
The pasta was perfectly al dente. Braised venison enhanced the dish, turning an otherwise excellent pasta dish into a bourgeois stew, which we shared Marxist style.
The decor inside Stuzzi Leeds is incredibly stylish and tasteful. The interior is very bright, thanks to the huge bay windows and skylights which provide an airy and modern atmosphere.
My only issue was that the seats looked like they had been broken into straight out of a Quaker meeting house. However, I agreed that ultimately they matched the atmosphere.
Our table was spaced apart and it was a little too easy to be surprised by unsolicited eavesdropping by diners on either side. I normally like to eat pappardelle without hearing the banal chatter of my colleagues but, in the end, it was a minor inconvenience.
Then there was the asparagus (£10.50) which was, unsurprisingly, asparagus. It was wrapped in lardo with an orange chilli salsa. The asparagus itself was fresh and high quality, however, the orange salsa let it down.
The citrus from the orange just didn’t gel with the rest of the dish and it left the whole thing incongruous. Still, I admire the couple’s fearlessness, it wasn’t quite fair. Maybe a lemon salsa would have turned out more flavorful and subtle. For £10, this course left a sour taste.
The boar mortadella surprised us. Due to my shameful ignorance of Italian dish names, I ordered this dish thinking it would be similar to porchetta. I hadn’t realized that mortadella is an Italian sausage cut into very thin slices.
It was served with a compote of plums and pink peppercorns, which was absolutely delicious. The mortadella came in the form of thin ribbons of pink ham and had a very dried and peppery flavor. Charcuterie lovers will certainly appreciate this dish.
Then there were the arancini – fried leek risotto balls with dried trout butter in the center. These looked remarkably like continental scotch eggs, but infinitely more elegant and tastier of course. I have been assured that this is a Sicilian street food staple, and I can understand why.
Worth mentioning I also ordered an Ichnusa Non-Filtrata beer (£5.50) which I assume would come in a pint form, only to find it was smaller than a can of coke. In all honesty it was good so I wasn’t also bothered by the £5.50 tag.
During our visit, the servers were incredibly professional and friendly, however, the whole occasion felt a bit rushed. All dishes came out at the same time, which is good if you’re hungry, but not so good if you fancy a slower occasion. It was a little disappointing as the experience did not reflect the relaxed pace with which Italian cuisine has become synonymous.
The occasion lasted just under an hour, which surprised me. We received the bill and everything was as expected except for a “gift tree” charge. I can only assume that this is one of those initiatives where a tree is planted as a result of your donation. While I admire their commitment to Thunberg-ness, I wish I had been informed beforehand.
There was also a 9.79% service charge on the receipt which was to be expected frankly, but worth knowing if you are visiting. My verdict of Stuzzi is that it offers imaginative and authentic Italian cuisine with a striking, continental interior. Disappointed only with rushed service and a few extras added to the bill.
The law project
Arancinis – £8.50
Wild Boar Mortadella – £11
Asparagus – £10.50
Meat Pasta – £12.50
Porchetta – £9.50
Unfiltered Ichnusa – £5.50
Service charge – £5.75
Gift Tree – £1.23
TOTAL – £64.48
Don’t forget that if you want to know all the latest news on food, drink and events across the city, you can visit the Best in Leeds homepage. You can also sign up for the Best in Leeds homepage by heading to this page – and it’s completely FREE.
Read more :