Leeds restaurant hailed as ‘a note-perfect Italian’ by national critic Jay Rayner

A restaurant in which “all the essentials are attended to.”

The Guardian’s food critic Jay Rayner has headed back up north for his latest restaurant review as he visits Zucco in Meanwood.

Having opened a decade ago in the friendly suburb of Meanwood, Zucco has been a firm favourite amongst the Leeds foodie scene ever since.

Boasting a menu of small plates that changes daily depending on the season, customers can expect dishes made with only the freshest of ingredients inspired by “the thigh to the heel of Italy’s boot” as Rayner describes.

Zucco was opened by Rosario Leggiero who used to work alongside acclaimed British restaurateur and chef Russel Norman, who sadly passed away at the end of last year.

Jay Rayner focuses his review on Norman’s everlasting influence on Leggiero and subsequently Zucco, explaining that just sitting down for lunch caused him to start “thinking about the brilliance of Russell Norman all over again.”

Often referring to Norman’s famous restaurant Polpo in Soho which is famed for starting the fashionable small plates movement, he says “it struck me that Zucco could not have existed, could not have looked like this, without Polpo first having been born.”

When describing the food Rayner says it reminds him of the cooking at Salvo’s, a restaurant in Headingley that is nothing short of an institution, “The kitchen is overseen by Rosario’s brother Michael who, for many years, cooked at Salvo’s in Headingley.”

He goes on to say “the thing is, amid the 21st-century Polpo reference points, there is also more than a touch of the 20th-century Salvo’s about the food here.”

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Delving into a range of small plates from arancini and fritto misto to white risotto with ox cheek that he says is “quite simply perfect”, Rayner comes to the conclusion that Zucco is a “note-perfect Italian”.

A restaurant in which “all the essentials are attended to.”

“It was pure coincidence that I had lunch at Zucco in the same week as I attended the lovely memorial event for Russell Norman. But as I sipped my dark-roast espresso and looked about the room, I concluded it was exactly the right place to be.”

Read the full review here.

Read more: The delicious Leeds brunch spot inspired by American Canadian ‘comfort dining’

Featured image – Zucco

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