Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana opens in Headingley to grab a slice of the student action. But will it be sloppy seconds for the original Italian Restaurants along Otley Road? Sarah heads to the new site to find out more

In the Seventies, a Doctor with red bushy eyebrows took my Mother on a first date to an Italian Restaurant. Having never eaten pizza or pasta before, she threw up over the dashboard of his Ford Cortina. These days, you can’t move for tomato sauce. Every sleepy middle England town it seems, has at least one Dominos. Suburbs have swapped post offices for Papa Johns. Even Kidderminster has a Pizza Hut.

Headingley, is no exception. Neanderthals residing in the area have all the choice in the world when it comes to dining without cutlery. Back in 1978, the bright red and green Harpo’s Takeaway was a student favourite. Now, you can get an eleven-inch pizza on a sourdough base at the Golden Beam Wetherspoons.

I think the more people that come to Otley Road for pizza, the better!

At the far end of Otley Road, there’s the family run Giorgio’s, and then Salvo’s at the crossroads. A little further down Ecco, another student institution, serves up pizza by the half metre. Last year, Poco Sicilian Street Food popped up, and Heaney & Mill started offering hand-stretched pizzas at lunch time. You can enjoy a slab of Detroit style deep dish with your pint at the Meanwood Tavern, before a pizzette at Zucco round the corner.

Under the colonnades of the Arndale Centre, Pizza Express has been established in Headingley for decades. Right next door, a brand new Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana opened on the 13th March to get in on a slice of the action. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d have a whole pizza on the noose, but can there be too much of a good thing? Or does the instant marketability of pizza forever shift demand towards the freshest, fluffiest crust?

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Rudy's Pizza in Headingley Image: Confidentials

For Steve Mutlow, General Manager of the new Headingley Rudy’s, pizza’s universal appeal boils down to two things: “Adaptability and versatility.” And, he argues, the more the merrier. “I think you get different strokes for different folks… Ecco specialise in woodfire pizza, so if that’s your bag you can go there. They also do some fantastic specialty pizzas. We specialize in very authentic pizzas, but if you want something different, go to Ecco. If you want a slice, go to Poco.”

Pizza is certainly having its moment. This is Rudy’s third site in Leeds, after successfully taking over the old Evans Cycle shop in the City Centre, and A Casa Mia, up in Chapel Allerton. The brand has gathered pace since opening its original Ancoats restaurant back in 2015. Dough is spun daily using Caputo ‘0.0’ flour, juicy San-Marzano tomatoes are shipped in direct from the volcanic slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

“You can have a pizza and a beer here, and walk away being full and satisfied from Fifteen quid… and that's having some of the best Neapolitan ingredients and the best Neapolitan chefs making it for you.” Steve adds. But despite the addition of high-quality toppings, there’s no denying the mark-up available. Recent price hikes have been noticeable across the industry.

Rudys Pizza Headingley Opens This Month
Rudy's Pizza in Headingley Image: Confidentials

In 2012, Pizza Express used frozen dough, imported at 3p per unit. Half went into those beloved Dough Balls (1.5p) which were sold, alongside a ramekin of garlic butter and that pretty little sprig of parsley on top, for £3.95. Today they’ll set you back £5.25. Ayden Grant, the Headingley Manager of seven years, explains how the dine-in versus dine-out trade has flipped completely since the pandemic. At 6pm on a Monday only one table is occupied, by two men, eating pasta.

I ask Steve whether he reckons they’ll steal any trade from their neighbours. “There’s certainly a Venn diagram where we overlap. Families can go there. If we’re full like today…we send people next door.” Rudy’s seats one-hundred, with a large outdoor terrace area. This evening the benches are wet with rain, but come actual Spring, Otley runners will no doubt be lining their stomachs before ensuing chaos down the hill. (Hopefully minus any reappearing tomato sauce!)

Inside Rudy’s, plants hang in the wide windows; globe lighting dangling from the brick ceiling. 2kg tins of those famed tomatoes are stacked up above a giant green and white tiled Stefano Ferrara pizza oven. Groups of girls capture Instagram Reels of stringy mozzarella and orange tumblers of Negroni.

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Rudy's Pizza in Headingley Image: Confidentials

On the pavement a white sign swings in the breeze, which reads ‘Pizza lovers! Walk-ins Welcome!’ in caps lock. Yet, with an impressive social media following, presumably they won’t need to rely on through-traffic, Orange Wednesdays, or a supermarket range to conserve customer appetites.

Steve believes, “There's enough hungry students and enough hungry postgrads and enough hungry middle-aged giffers like me who still love pizza, who can get whatever they need from this strip….  I think the more people that come to Otley Road for pizza, the better!” Let’s hope he’s right, ey?


Unit 6 - 8, Otley Road, Headingley, LS6 2UE

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