Amalfi Coast-inspired Summer menu at Riva Blu (Leeds)

14 Jun 2023

Taking the recent coronation of King Charles as a prime example, we’re sure you’ll agree that us Yorkshire folk love a good knees-up. Yes, when it comes to putting on a sizable spread and celebrating with the best of them, we can certainly compete with any other county. But what if we were to look further afield?

It’s fair to say that our Italian cousins also know how to throw a decent shindig, and this is certainly the case in Italy’s third-largest city, located at the northernmost tip of the Amalfi Coast. And the good people of Naples have recently had a rather large cause for celebration after their football team secured its first Serie A title (the Italian equivalent of the English Premier League) in over 30 years. The Neapolitan skyline was illuminated with fireworks for days on end, and the club’s supporters packed out the streets, brandishing Napoli scarves, shirts, and flags. And we’re certain the renowned pizza Margherita (that was born in the city) would have been consumed in vast quantities.

But the cuisine in the Amalfi Coast region goes way beyond just that famous pizza staple. And now, thanks to Riva Blu in Leeds, you can capture a true taste of Naples for yourself as part of their new Amalfi Coast-inspired, summer alfresco menu. Reason for further celebration, we’re sure you’ll agree.

As we are based in York, it was only a hop, skip, and a jump across to the centre of Leeds on what was a roasting Friday afternoon in North Yorkshire. But by the time we’d arrived at the West Yorkshire outpost, the Italian sunshine had bid us arrivederci. But instead, we were relieved to receive a warm Neapolitan welcome from Dario and his team at the site where the former Gino D’Acampo restaurant was housed.

Our research beforehand had told us to expect, “bright colours, branded sunglasses, lemon trees, lemon sorbet ice cream, and music to mimic Capri.”  And while a lukewarm Leeds afternoon couldn’t quite compete with Capri, the atmosphere when we arrived was certainly one of relaxation and expectation. From the get-go, Dario was precisely what a good restaurant manager should be: knowledgeable with some great recommendations, funny, yet not intrusive.

Speaking of his recommendations, the theme throughout the afternoon (as we’d already read about) was all about the humble lemon. And boy-oh-boy, we had never seen lemons such as this before, brought in by the Head Chef himself from the region. They were so big and juicy that, at a glance, they could have been mistaken for cantaloupes. So, it was fitting that the starting lineup for the afternoon included two Rivas (£9.25 each), homemade Amalfi Coast Limoncello spritzes that were just as refreshing as they sound. A great way to kick off proceedings.

Then, early in the first half, thanks to our son William’s obsession with olives, Dario brought out the Olive marinate (£5.25), Gaeta & Nocellara olives, chili, garlic, and oregano, and they really didn’t disappoint. The only thing that did disappoint was that our spritzes hadn’t stood a chance and were gone before we could say, Diego Armando Maradona.

Next, was the one must-try dish Lucy had earmarked from the start and was determined to devour. The Burrata Pugliesi – fresh Puglian burrata, basil pesto, and grilled Italian vegetable salad served with toasted ciabatta (£13.25). And devour it she did, in double quick time too.

For Antipasti, we opted for a couple of deep-fried dishes. But don’t be put off as they were far from heavy, in fact, the Frittatina Napoletana – pasta and béchamel fritters, Italian roast ham, peas, basil pesto, and rocket (£8.50) alongside the Polpettine do melanzane – crispy aubergine and smoked provola fritters, San Marzano tomato sauce, and fresh basil (£8.25), were surprisingly light considering they were deep-fried and they left us with plenty of room for the second half.

Dario is a proud Neapolitan, and he draws parallels between the vibrancy of the Amalfi Coast region and the ambience they’ve lovingly created at Riva Blu. He said, “Diners can expect a vibrant, lively atmosphere, with passionate, Italian staff and bold geometric outfits that pair perfectly with our bright exclusive cocktails!” So rather than just take his word for it, next on the team sheet was the delicious Hibiscus and violet mojito, Bacardi Carta Blanca, lime juice, William Fox hibiscus syrup, violet liqueur & dried hibiscus (£10), which perfectly accompanied our mains.

You can’t really go wrong with classic Italian meatballs, and we’re pleased to say this sentiment continues after we ordered the fantastic Polpette piccanti – tender beef and pork meatballs, tomato, chili, and basil sauce, served with toasted sourdough (£16.50). But for me, the star of the show was the Orata al forno – a rather large whole roasted delicately cooked sea bream, vine-ripened tomatoes, Leccino olives, garlic, and rosemary potatoes (£28.50). It was worth every penny, but you gotta be hungry to finish the lot.

William was already on his way to being filled up by the olive starter and Garlic bread (£5.25) from the Bambini menu (for kids under the age of 11), but the most pleasant surprise for us was how quickly he demolished the Spaghetti Bolognese – slow cooked beef ragù and matured Italian cheese (£8.50), washed down with a Fresh apple juice (£3.25). The surprising part was that his own must-eat dish (that he would inhale for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if we allowed him to) is cheesy pasta, so it’s a testament to the chef that this Bolognese hit the spot. Whereas for the grownups, the seasonal organic wine list provided a great pairing with the new food menu, and the only problem with the Gavi di Gavi DocG La Soraia (£14.25 for a large glass), was that, indeed, we only chose to drink it by the glass, and not the bottle.

As we then headed into the final few minutes, bellies full and energy levels slowly depleting, Dario the Manager prepared the star player from the bench, ready to end the meal with a bang. The Tiramisu al Limone (£15 for two servings) was a lovely twist on the classic tiramisu, and our charming half Yorkshire half Italian waiter provided the theatre by preparing the dish at our table while we looked on with smiles on our faces sipping our chilled Amal! Limoncello. The light and fluffy dessert was a perfect end to our Amalfi Coast-inspired afternoon in West Yorkshire.

So, if, like us, you fancy celebrating like a Neapolitan this summer and you want to feel like you’re on the Amalfi Coast, head to the Leeds Riviera (aka Park Row, LS1) and raise a glass of Limoncello – first to the Napoli football team, and then to the awesome Riva Blu itself.

We’re definitely going to be heading back for a replay.

FoodNoise Editor