Carb warrior Simon Richardson embarks on an epic man vs. pizza experience
Midweek has to be my least favourite part of the week. Memories of the previous weekend have faded away to nothing, but the next opportunity to start wantonly boozing at midday is still so, so far off.
What better way to get yourself over the hump of the week than by eating so much pizza that it starts coming out of your ears like an Italian playdough factory? Fortunately, Horsforth has an establishment that will do just that…
I try to order a cab but my fingers have swollen to the size of baguettes
In preparation for cultivating my carb face, I choose to walk to Trattoria Il Forno from a bar on New Road Side. That burned, what, seven calories? Pretty sure that’s an extra olive. The first thing I notice is that it’s rammed. I pass three or four other restaurants on the way – each one almost completely empty.
Not Trattoria, which has something of a reputation for a fiercely loyal local crowd and the food to match. We’re seated amongst an excited hullabaloo of nattering, selfies and friendly waiting staff. It’s a very mixed crowd, ranging from nervous 18-year-olds on dates, all the way up to post-retirement couples. One such couple leaves as we sit down. “See you next week! Grazie!”
Trattoria is welcoming, has a lively but not over-imposing atmosphere and is simply decorated, with a woodstore motif in front of the walls. The centrepiece though, is the pizza oven. It’s enormous - you could wood burn a family of four in it. And when you look at the menu it becomes apparent that they intend to use its massive capacity, as they offer TWENTY-inch pizzas as mains – to share, I assume.
I need to prepare my stomach, so I start with a mound of buffalo mozzarella the size of a child’s fist (£9.30), adorned with deliciously salty prosciutto, Parmesan and crusty bread. The mozzarella is creamy in the middle, slightly oozing when I cut in to it.
My partner has the special – spaghetti with clams (£8.95) and it’s wondrous. The fish, the cream and the spaghetti are all perfectly balanced, transporting you to a little shack somewhere on the Italian coast. I never thought I could be jealous of someone else’s food when in possession of a ball of cheese I could kill a man with, but every day’s a school day.
We also share a recommended cocktail – a Sgroppino Royale (£5.50) and I find myself awkwardly saying the word “witchcraft” over and over again as I drink it. Sorbet? In a cocktail?! If all drugs were vodka, prosecco and lemon sorbet in a glass, I’d be in permanent rehab.
On to the mains – or should I say main. You can choose two halves of the 20-inch behemoth from the extensive selection on the pizza menu. We go for half carne, half quattro formaggi (£21 total - image above), with a few extra toppings (£0.95 each). We almost have to put our glasses, phones and cutlery on the floor to accommodate it. It’s like a cheesy tractor wheel.
It’s perfectly cooked though, with the subtle wood flavour coming through in the crust and no single part of it suffering from sogginess – no mean feat when you consider the size and the amount of cheese. We embark on an epic person vs. pizza battle – the Ben Hur of sedate midweek pizza eating – ably assisted by a wonderfully full-bodied bottle of chianti (£28.95), which provides sweet cherry notes that sit well with the tomato from the pizza. Somewhere towards the end of the second glass I become convinced that I have doubled in size and become a dough behemoth, ready to enshroud the world in warm bread.
It takes a Herculean effort to eat our desserts. By this stage, I’m ready to explode like Mr Creosote. Smaller pizzas are available of course, but I’m a carb warrior and I take no prisoners. The tiramisu (£6.75) is creamy and well-textured, although perhaps a little light on the alcohol. The affogato (£5.75), however, is anything but, with generous amaretto flavours piercing through the cloak of vanilla and coffee.
As we go to leave, I prize open my eyes - which have sunk into seventeen extra layers of facial carbohydrate - and notice that everyone else has long gone and chairs have magically appeared on top of tables around us. I don’t care – I’m so full I’m virtually speaking in tongues. I try to order a cab but my fingers have swollen to the size of baguettes so I stand forlornly in the street, clumsily prodding at the screen until my partner takes pity on me and orders one herself.
Now I’ve had a week to digest Trattoria Il Forno, I can say that it’s up there with the best Italian restaurants in the city. From starters, right the way through to desserts, it’s excellent. Perhaps the service is a touch more formal than Culto, Zucco or Livin’ Italy – all excellent alternatives. But the food more than stands up to its rivals and the gigantic pizzas provide a centrepiece that is completely unrivalled.
I’d love to say that I intend to become one of Trattoria’s inner sanctum of regulars, but I need to do about six months on the treadmill before I can fit in the same clothes to go back again.
Trattoria Il Forno, 85 Town St, Horsforth, Leeds LS18 5BP
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Buffalo mozzarella 8.5, spaghetti alle vongole 10, giant pizza 9, tiramisu 8, affogato 8.5
A real buzz of excitement
Polite and friendly – a touch more formal than other Italians in Leeds