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We went to Leeds' most famous Italian restaurant to see if it's gone downhill

Those from North Leeds are likely to feel a wave of nostalgia come over them at the mention of the Flying Pizza.

The Italian restaurant has been a staple of Street Lane in Roundhay since 1974 – it goes back a long way and became the place to be seen. There are pictures adorning the ways all over the restaurant of famous celebrities, including the likes of Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, and various Leeds United stars over time.

The last time I’d ventured in there was back in the early 2000s, it’s a venue which has always had a fond place in my childhood. It was a prime birthday spot and fantastic place for the family. There was always this bubble of excitement at whether we’d be sat across from a Leeds star.

Read more: We tried one of the best rated Leeds takeaways on Deliveroo

It was taken over by new owners in 2011, the restaurant chain San Carlo Group, who officially renamed it San Carlo Flying Pizza. Ever since, there have been rumours the restaurant had lost its old sparkle. That its quality had somehow diminished or prices had shot up and it was no longer affordable, with an air of elitism encircling the eatery.

Whatever the reason, it’s seemed to have lost the ‘go-to’ factor and affectionate buzz it was so known for at the turn of the millennia, with restaurants like Salvo's in Headingley arguably overtaking it.

San Carlo Flying Pizza in Street Lane, Leeds (Google Maps)

So we headed down there for a spot of lunch to see whether the Flying Pizza had retained its magic or if it really had gone downhill. Initial signs were good upon our arrival, it seemed fairly busy for midday and there was a serene atmosphere.

We were sat on a table in the sun lounge right at the front, which was suitably bright with large open spaces. The interior was tasteful, with elegant subtle colour tones and marble stone design on the tabletops, which was further enhanced by small trees potted around the dining area and overhead hanging candles. The waiters were welcoming, and we felt relaxed as we took it all in.

The sun lounge in the San Carlo Flying Pizza in Street Lane (Samuel Port)

Perusing the menu, we were quickly reminded by just how expensive the food was. Some may judge the prices as no longer being reasonable, but I tend to err on the side of its good reputation preceding it. It’s The Flying Pizza, if you’re from Leeds then you should know your wallet is going to take a hit. It's the type of venue one visits for a treat or special occasion.

Arancini at the San Carlo Flying Pizza in Street Lane (Samuel Port)

For starters, we ordered the Arancini, a sharing dish with fried rice balls with truffle and parmesan. It was gorgeous, the delicate rice balls just fell apart as you bit into them and these were complimented with the piquant parmesan sauce.

For our mains, we ordered the salt baked seabass and the Branzino Gremola (grilled Mediterranean seabass). The salt baked seabass, which comes at the hefty price of £27.95, was an astonishing dish. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a delicate fish with such rich flavours. The grilled seabass was also the subject hearty praise from my dining companion.

Salt baked seabass (above) and Branzino Gremola (grilled seabass) from the San Carlo Flying Pizza in Street Lane (Samuel Port)

We got a side order of fries and mixed salad to go with these dishes, the fries were perfectly fine and the salad was generously portioned – a lot of vegetables to compliment the meal.

For dessert, we ordered the raspberry baked cheesecake and the Millefoglie, an Italian cream pastry dish. The cheesecake was as delicious as one might expect, soft and light with the sweet raspberry sauce rippling across the cake.

Cheesecake (above) and Millefoglie from the San Carlo Flying Pizza in Street Lane (Samuel Port)

The Millefoglie was really something special however, delicate and emboldened with sweet flavours. The presentation of each dish was also just superb, a real touch of class.

The bill

  • Orange juice - £3.60
  • Cappuccino - £3.70
  • Arancini - £7.95
  • Branzino Gremola - £21.95
  • Salt baked seabass - £27.95
  • Fries - £4.25
  • Mixed salad - £4.20
  • Millefoglie - £7.50
  • Cheesecake - £6.95
  • Service - £8.81

Total: £96.86

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