Restaurants don’t spend 24 years at the top of their game unless they are particularly good. That’s a fact. Rico’s is in Oakwood on Roundhay Road, Leeds. It’s one of those rare, proper family run, Italian, independent restaurants. There are very few left in Leeds.
It was a delight to meet the owner, Heather and manager, Issam. Issam has been there since it opened 24 years ago and understandably the pair knew the menu inside out, because Heather told me little has changed on the menu in 24 years. Why change a winning formula? This is traditional Italian cuisine. Proper home cooked grub. In fact, Heather looked shocked when I asked her if the food was house made, like of course it was a given that it was.
Surprisingly for such an extensive menu, pretty much everything is made in house from raw ingredients. I found this quite impressive, but it was obviously apparent on taste. From a wide variety of antipasti (starters), a large pizza and pasta selection to a varied secondi piatti (mains). For those healthy eating, there are half a dozen appealing salad dishes and a good assortment of fish dishes. Another rarity nowadays is to find a range of Vitello (veal) on a menu. I would be tempted to try one of these on my next visit, because I have already decided I’m returning, but next time I’m taking the family.
This is the kind of family-friendly restaurant I wish I’d found sooner. Real, homely, proper Italian food in a traditional and relaxed setting. You know the kind of restaurant where you don’t have to worry about the kids laughing too hard or wriggling off their chairs. I imagine this would be met by friendly smiles from the staff their rather than a disgruntled look. This is simply a place to chill, relax and enjoy. Unpretentious and clearly full of local regulars. So much so, looking around, it was hard to tell if they were friends or customers.
My dining partner Sam and I went on a Tuesday night in January, and as such I expected little atmosphere but how wrong was I. It was pleasantly busy. We were welcomed to our table and kicked things off by ordering a bottle of Corvo (Bianco), A pleasant, fruity, white wine from Sicily, reasonably priced at £19.05. On Issam’s recommendation, we shared Insalata Tricolore: slices of avocado, tomato and baby mozzarella topped with their own olive oil and herb dressing. This was a delightfully refreshing way to start our meal, and we were glad we chose this option as the main portions are generous.
For our mains, we enjoyed two of their best selling Pollame (poultry) dishes. Sam went for Pollo Buongusto: chicken breast sautéed with ham, tomatoes, red wine, herbs and cream, topped with mozzarella cheese and asparagus baked in the oven. I enjoyed a bountiful Pollo Principessa: breast of chicken cooked with mushrooms, prawns, wine, brandy, cream, tomatoes, parsley and tarragon.We both thoroughly recommend these dishes, it was easy to see why they are so popular. Lyonaise Potatoes (sauté potatoes with fried onions) and Courgettes Provencale (tomato, garlic, white wine and oregano) complemented our mains beautifully.
One of the few things that wasn’t made in house, was the Toffee Crunch Pie we shared for dessert, but it was very much appreciated along with a Cappuccino (for me) and a cup of tea for Sam to end our meal. Before I sign off, I’d like to add that Rico’s offer a takeaway service, a very reasonably priced kids’ menu, a wide variety of vegetarian dishes, and have some great lunchtime offers... oh, and I’m assured that their Lasagne Al Forno is delicious.
450 Roundhay Road,
Oakwood, Leeds LS8 2HU.
Tel. 0113 295 9697