Leeds Riva Blu restaurant review: Gino D’Acampo’s rebranding doesn’t live up to the hype – Christian Johnson

Leeds is spoiled for choice with great Italian restaurants.

Salvo’s in Headingley has built an unwavering reputation over the decades, Station House Café & Bistro in Garforth has been voted Leeds’ Best Italian Restaurant on TripAdvisor, and Zucco in Minwood was one of 11 Leeds restaurants included in the Good Food Guide 2019.

So, if you love lasagna or go crazy for a pizza party, Leeds is the place to be. In such a competitive market, the standards are incredibly high and while the food at Riva Blu was reasonable, there are certainly better value for money elsewhere in the city.

Read more: Best restaurant in Leeds named

The refurbishment of Gino D’Acampo’s downtown restaurant on Park Row has given it a stylish new look. The pink flowering tree at the entrance is impressive, and the enticing views into the kitchen let you see the giant wood-fired pizza oven.

My wife and I sat by the window overlooking Grecheskaya Street as the sun shone through the window on a warm Thursday evening. The drinks menu offers a great selection of beers, cocktails and soft drinks, and I sipped my Birra Moretti while contemplating what food to order.



The choice of drinks at Riva Blu was wide and varied.

The platter of giant green olives arrived within minutes and while the chili and rosemary flavor was sharp, the olives themselves were a bit hard and not as meaty as I expected.

We then shared an appetizer, bruschetta with tomatoes, which was probably the highlight of the meal. The crispy toasted ciabatta was soaked in olive oil and garnished with fresh tomatoes, and a generous helping of basil really upped this dish.



Bruschetta with tomatoes in Riva Blu

In truth, everything went downhill from here. As an adopted Yorkshireman, I was a little apprehensive about paying £18.50 for a pizza, but I thought, “In Rome (or, in this case, Leeds).”

When it was placed on the table 15 minutes later, I thought I had made an inspired choice. It looked great, with beef fillet shavings and a big pile of fresh arugula on top.

But the first bite disappointed me. It was the same with the second and the third… While the tomato bruschetta appetizer was full of flavor, it was on the other end of the spectrum.

The beef didn’t have the salty and rich quality I was expecting and there were large sections of pizza with no toppings at all. Having paid almost £20, I was expecting much more.



Spaghetti carbonara at Riva Blu
Spaghetti carbonara at Riva Blu

My wife’s spaghetti carbonara was a little better. The smoky pancetta left a lingering smoldering taste in my mouth, but the sauce was bland and the whole dish lacked spiciness. Again, this seemed overpriced at £15.50.

The bill was £63.80 and it is fair to say that prices are similar in many Leeds Italian restaurants. The aforementioned Salvo’s, The Station House Cafe & Bistro, and Zucco aren’t exactly cheap, but one thing sets them apart – their food is amazing.

What can not be said about Riva Blu. There was nothing particularly wrong with the spaghetti carbonara or the carpaccio pizza – both were fine – but certainly not to the same impeccable standards as other Leeds Italian restaurants.

If you’re in the mood for an Italian, there are plenty of better options elsewhere.

Check

  • Cherignola olives – 5 lbs.
  • Bruschetta with Tomatoes – £7.70
  • Carpaccio pizza – £18.50
  • Spaghetti Carbonara – £15.50
  • Everleaf Gin Tonic – £5.75
  • Pint of Birra Moretti – £5.50
  • Service fee – 5.80

Total: £63.80

Riva Blue, 11-12 Park Row, Leeds, LS1 5HD

Book a table online or call 0113 244 3220.

Thursday-Saturday, open from 12:00 to 23:00. Sunday-Wednesday, open from 12:00 to 22:00.

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