ENGLAND cricketer Ryan Sidebottom and Loose Woman Jane McDonald were on hand to celebrate the opening of the new Carluccio’s restuarant on Greek Street this week.
Confidential caught up with Jane over a bellini to find out what she thought of the sleek new city centre eaterie and - ever the professional – she was impressed.
“I’m having one of the best nights of my life, and judging by tonight I think this place should do well,” she told us.
“I do go out in London, but I love coming back to Leeds with my team and my friends to have a good time, plus I want to support new businesses that are starting up in the city.”
Confidential left Jane fending off the affections of a cheery accordionist called Roman, who was failing to lure her into a duet on a slightly surreal version of ‘Ilkley Moor Batht’at.’
“We waited a while to make sure the business was sound before going nationwide and Leeds is exactly the sort of vibrant place we wanted to open up."
We were left wondering whether an accordion was more French than Italian, but – hey – let’s not let cultural awareness get in the way of a good PR stunt.
Carluicco’s is certainly serious about making its latest Northern outpost a success as chief executive Simon Kossoff had even trekked though Watford Gap to open proceedings.
“We waited a while to make sure the business was sound before going nationwide and Leeds is exactly the sort of vibrant place we wanted to open up,” he told Confidential.
“As well as the deli which will help the lunchtime trade we have a bar area here, which is a first for us and we hope it will attract people in for a drink after work. One of the reasons we waited to open here was that we wanted the right site and this it it.”
No opening is ever complete without a bloke in a gold chain representing the council and Leeds Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Patrick Davey, was doing his civic duty, manfully ignoring the free bellinis.
“The city centre regeneration needs companies like Carluccio’s to invest here and they’ve created, I believe, more than 40 jobs that otherwise wouldn’t have been there,” he said.
“The council has been working towards being a 24-hour city and in these tough economic times hopefully people will have a drink here after leaving the office and stay on in town.”
Cannily, Carluccio’s have hired local lad Alex Wiggett to run the new outlet.
“I’m from Tadcaster originally and I was working for Carluccio’s in Spitalfields, but when this job came up I knew I had to have it,” laughed Alex.
Ditching uber-trendy East London to come home to Leeds is a gamble, but Alex is confident he can pull it off.
“We’ve only been open a few days but the feedback has been very good and the beauty of this place is you can come in a coffee and a cake or lunch, or have a drink at the bar and maybe stay on for lunch or dinner.”
The Italian marble bar is certainly impressive and Alex twisted our arm to try one his Arancini balls - deep fried risotto rice balls in breadcrumbs. Apparently, they are available in the deli as well as specials in the restaurant, and we would particularly recommend the pesto version.
Most of the nibbles on offer were taken from the day to day menu with the mushroom risotto especially good. Confidential will be back for a full food review in due course.
Carluccio’s is obviously focused on making a mark in the city centre. It's got anothe recent entry, San Carlo, as its main competition, but with Pizza Express really going off the boil recently, there is a place for another decent mid-market Italian. Especially one with a swanky bar.
Confidential will be giving Carluccio's a full review in the next few week. Stay tuned.
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