Last year, we went to Sicily.
It was wonderful, a beguiling and fascinating place, riven with history, fiercely hot, passionately intense and honest. We swam in the sea from makeshift pontoons made of scaffolding, drove around the mountains and hills, stood in awe in the middle of a Roman amphitheatre, facing the spectacle of the Mediterranean, and we ate well.
We ate very well.
‘Eating well’ isn’t too difficult in Italy, because food is a serious business, and eating is the reason for living. One day, we tracked down a restaurant in a small town in the hills that had been enthusiastically recommended by a very trusted friend, and ate one of the most memorable lunches I’ve ever experienced – three courses from a blackboard, a different menu to yesterday, one which changed constantly as things sold out, a kitchen that cooked entirely based on what was good that day, with no compromises whatsoever.
This was typical. Everything we ate on Sicily had something about it, something good, right down to the quick slice of pizza or arancini here and there as a snack. Of course, this is all a heady combination of place, circumstance and experience, but Sicilian food was absolutely excellent, especially from the street, from the little cafes and takeaways – fresh, lively, inventive, cheap food.
So, back to Britain, and to a very wet Friday afternoon at the end of May, about halfway along a traffic choked Kirkstall Road, right opposite a big leisure park of cinemas and trampoline centres and restaurants that serve bad things from microwaves, and you’ll find POCO Sicilian, a tiny little cafe/takeaway serving some of the most incredible street food I’ve ever eaten in this great city of street food. It’s a genuine, authentic Sicilian takeaway that wouldn’t be out of place in the shabby elegance and heat of Palermo.
We had arancini, hefty balls of rice enclosing a generous scoop of Bolognese, deep-fried with breadcrumbs – deep, hearty, tasty sauce and light, fluffy rice, coloured with saffron and fried to a satisfying crunch. There was pizza, too, slabs of an open textured base loaded with smoked salmon, rocket, avocado, and a beautiful creamy buffalo mozzarella, finished with a squeeze of Sicilian lemon.
A batch of (what I think was) foccacine came out of the oven whilst we were there, sliced with great care and attention, a huge wedge of layers of bread and tomato and meat. The side view of the layers of this frankly staggering thing was shown around with obvious and entirely deserving pride, for it was a thing of wonder.
It struck me how pleased the staff seemed to genuinely be with that focaccine, as it was photographed and admired, and that’s exactly the passion coupled up with some very handy cooking indeed that makes POCO Sicilian such a huge success.
How can a place be bad when the people running it are so obviously passionate about their food?
So, some practicalities. We drove out to Kirkstall, but POCO Sicilian is about 1.6 miles from the middle of town, which is walkable in about half an hour on a nice day. There are plenty of buses back into town, or it’s definitely worth stretching to an Uber. All in, perfectly achievable for a long lunch and a good walk if you work in the middle of Leeds. you won’t regret the effort.
You can find POCO Sicilian on Facebook or at @pocosicilian on Instagram or twitter.
360 Kirkstall Road