Leeds’ Greek Street has had a bit of a fancy pants resurgence in the past couple of years, the main improvement being its pedestrianisation. Wandering there for a drink and a bite to eat after work seems almost Mediterranean with its bustling outdoor seating and the tempting sound of glasses clinking in cocktail hour. Competition is tough on this stretch but Gusto is holding its own, bringing an authentic taste of Italy to this vibrant part of Leeds.
Walking into Gusto you’ll first notice the prominent foliage - trees interspersed with twinkling fairy lights hang above the tables as you dine. With such a dreamy interior you might think this place caters only for the cash rich but in fact, Gusto has something on the menu for a range of budgets, as long as you’re looking for a taste of Italy.
One thing you will spot thanks to the open view kitchen is the gigantic pizza oven - you can just tell the chefs are going to know their way around a roll of dough when there’s one of those bad boys fired up! But first, antipasti... roasted artichokes, sweet red peppers and goats cheese stuffed olives with a crispy polenta shell (£3.50) will keep your taste buds going while you ponder the starters and mains.
Before we even stepped foot in the restaurant we’d had our eyes on the handmade Sicilian arancini rice balls, so we got both the veggie (£5.25) and meat (£5.75) options to try. The saffron in the veggie ones sang through the Gran Moravia cheese and the texture of the crispy outside was everything. The meat version was similar but with five-hour slow cooked ragu to top it off, and both were served with a spiced tomato coulis.
The wood-fired oven was too tempting to dismiss, especially since they’d heartbreakingly ran out of my dream special - risotto nero with seared king scallops (£20.95. It didn’t help that the table opposite had pinched the last portion - it looked so tasty, rich and completely indulgent!).
With the specials off the table, we thought it best to check out Gusto’s pizza making skills. Again, we chose one veggie and one meat option - The Griffino (£13.75) and The Caprino (V, £11.25). The Griffino was topped with tender roast chicken pieces, salsiccia pepperoni, fiery red chillis, roasted red onion and stringy mozzarella. Nothing short of authentic, the base is thin enough to not feel too heavy after a starter, but the chillis do have quite a kick. The Caprino hit the taste buds a little harder with its pesto, goats cheese and caramelised onions, finished with sprinkles of pine kernels and fresh rocket.
Sides, you ask? It would’ve been rude not to... we tried the Italian fried courgettes (£3.50) which were a bit like polenta chips - nice and crispy on the skin and soft and fresh inside. The truffled skin-on-fries (£4.50) are amazing here too but ask for the truffle oil on the side as it is seriously pungent.
I’m usually a red wine hound but it felt much more of a white wine evening, so we chose a bottle of the Grillo ‘vitese’, Colomba Bianca (£22.50) which was honestly one of the best white wines I’ve supped. It was smooth, crisp but with refreshing citrus - I’ll probably make it my drink of the summer.
Dessert brought its own choice dilemma, with tempting Italian traditionals such as classic affogato (£5.75), lemon sorbet (£4.75) and bombolini (dough balls with Biscoff dip and Chantilly cream, £5.50) vs a traditional sticky toffee pudding (£6.75) or chocolate mousse (£5.95).
The DesignMyNight Digest
The great thing about Gusto is the ambience is nice enough to sit, chat, sip wine and nibble away for hours. You could even choose a few sides and starters and create your own Italian tapas. And don't let the swish decor and upmarket vibes fool you, it's also seriously affordable - Monday to Thursday from 5pm has its own special menu two courses for £16.95 or three for £19.95, and lunch can be snapped up at £13.95 for two courses.