It felt like the fall of the Roman empire watching Leeds’ Flying Pizza crash to earth after its godfather Adriano sold up a few years ago.
For those who don’t know it the Flying Pizza on Street Lane was the city’s ultimate magnet for bling and wag long before the terms were invented.
You were disappointed not to clock a Leeds United footballer there in the days when you could still recognise a Leeds United footballer. Porsche spotting on the forecourt was as popular as people watching in the garish interior. If Headingley’s Salvo’s was for students and media types then the Flying Pizza was Roundhay nouveau riche with knobs on and it packed them in all through the 70s, 80s and 90s. The food was OK, too, but almost incidental really once you got wrapped up in all that Italian warmth and bustle.
What went wrong? Well, an Italian fronted by someone called Pickles was always going to struggle to match up to Adriano’s charisma. Here’s an overnight verdict from one trusted regular: “Gloomy, no front of house presence, v. noisy, decor down at heel, automatic service charge for poor service, food nothing special, menu reduced to very little and prices increased beyond value for money… Po-faced staff to boot, and the place was so cold and grey looking thanks to the crap lighting put in at the last refurb….Last night at 10.10pm I went past and there was one table occupied….and I think they were staff!” Or perhaps the administrators into whose hands it had finally fallen.
So, from that rock bottom, it can only be good news that the San Carlo people have just bought it up and are promising to lavish a million quid on doing it up. San Carlo have a whopping 140-seater place on South Parade in Leeds [picture] as well as seven other branches across Britain based on pizza/pasta and a selection of pesce and carne – a classic Italian formula with a few nods to modern trends. It’s big business Italian but still owned and run by father and son Carlo and Marcello Di Stefano who once lived in Roundhay and used to eat at the Flying Pizza so they have some roots. Once gone, recapturing former glories can be as hard as rebuilding lost empires but if they can bring back a personal touch along with all the big spend, then – fingers crossed – the Flying Pizza might take off again as the place to see and be seen.