Through the seventies and eighties, The Flying Pizza was the place to be seen, and the place to see people, especially if those people tended to play for Leeds United or drove preposterously expensive cars.
We had the occasional but regular Sunday lunch there through my childhood and teenage years. I remember the marble tables, the framed picture of the Italian football team on the wall and the ever-present row of flashy cars parked out front. I ate my first proper pizza here, so it’s fair to say that I’ve got a soft spot for the place.
For some reason or another, I haven’t eaten there since the early nineties, so I was a bit nervous about revisiting last Sunday. The first thing that struck me was that nothing, absolutely nothing seemed to have changed. The decor had been revamped a little, but the restaurant looked and felt the same as it always did, and it had the same exciting but relaxed atmosphere I remember from my childhood visits.
The menu covers the usual dishes you’d expect in an Italian of this type. I didn’t really pay much attention to it, as I’d already declared my intentions in the car on the way over. I was going to have the house special, the Flying Pizza, and nothing was going to stop me. I chose some calamari to start, and Jen opted for a spaghetti carbonara, followed by a pizza Milano.
My calamari was unbelievable. Calamari is pot luck at the best of times…maybe it’ll be just OK, at worst it’ll be like deep-fried elastic bands. This calamari was fresh, having never seen the inside of a freezer and was meltingly tender.
Jen’s carbonara was a hit, but it was a large bowl full, too much for a starter, really.
The main course was spectacular. Everything you’d want in a pizza. Thin, charred on the bottom, crisp but just getting a little soggy in the very middle, not too much cheese and plenty of toppings. The house special is a bit of everything and was topped with ham, pepperoni, mussels, squid, olives and mushrooms. It was excellent, and the Milano wasn’t bad either.
Jen had the tiramasu for dessert, which she ordered not from the menu, but directly from the Seventies. She said it was excellent. My espresso was large, strong and hit me like a ton of bricks.
The service was a little bit erratic. It took us ages to catch a waiter’s eye to get the dessert menu, for example, but after that, we got dessert quickly and efficiently.
The Flying Pizza was full of Italians on Sunday, as it has been every Sunday for thirty-five years. It’s a relaxed and informal restaurant, child friendly and efficiently run by an apparently entirely Italian staff, prompting Jen to comment that the Italians are a stylish and good-looking people, whilst trying not to gawp at a passing waiter.
One last point. There is a very, very strong chance of bumping into local resident and national treasure Sir Jimmy Saville. I make no comment about this, just consider yourself warned.