Awkwardly situated on the far edge of campus, behind the well-established Library Pub, I have zoomed past La Besi without a second glance countless times whilst on a mad campus dash. It was only in the post-exam hedonism that myself and my housemate, on a friend’s recommendation, were prompted to delve a little deeper into the inconspicuous eatery. With such a central location, a 10% discount for NUS students and a BYOB policy, ‘La Besi’ actually couldn’t be more student friendly. After doing some research and finding that ‘La Besi’ aimed to bring authentic and affordable Sicilian cuisine to Leeds’ diverse residents, our expectations were high as we arrived clutching our own bottle of rosé wine to accompany our meal.
We were seated on the outside terrace to enjoy the balmy summer’s evening and were offered an extensive menu of starters, pizzas, pastas, salads, meat dishes and more! The funghetti all crema (garlic mushrooms in cream and white wine sauce), mozzarella fritta (deep fried mozzarella in Parma ham with rocket and fresh tomatoes) and insalata tricolore (fresh tomato, avocado, baby mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil) were tempting starters all under £6. However, having been assured that the portions were large, we proceeded straight to the main courses. My housemate opted for a warm goat’s cheese salad and I settled for a hefty pollo calzone – a folded pizza stuffed with chicken, garlic, spinach, mozzarella and tomato sauce. The food arrived within minutes and as promised were generously portioned. My calzone engulfed half the dinner plate alongside lashings of fresh tomato sauce, to the extent that I hastily asked the waitress if I could take half of it home with me. The fact that I guzzled every morsel of succulent chicken and tuft of Italian dough, is I hope a greater testament to the tastiness of the meal, than to my insatiable appetite. The calzone was surprisingly light, with well-balanced flavours whilst the tomato sauce was a deliciously tangy and moist accompaniment. My housemate’s goat’s cheese salad was also good value, with bold fresh flavours and varying textures, her only complaint being that the goat’s cheese was not completely oozing and heated through to the middle.
Whilst the desserts menu was not as wide-ranging as the main menu, it comprised of popular favourites such as tiramisu and profiteroles. The arancia ripena (a real orange with its flesh removed and filled with a tangy sorbet) would have been a refreshing option, yet our bellies were already fully satisfied, and this time we declined a sweet accompaniment.
On the evening that we visited La Besi it was virtually deserted, owing I assume to the depleting number of students in Leeds rather than disparaging food or poor service. Although its appearance may have been slightly lack-lustre, its simplistic interior and friendly, efficient service was a perfect fit to its community ethos. Above all, with offerings of utterly delicious, varied, well-priced and quality Italian fare, La Besi deserves to be a revered neighbourhood treasure; a much needed antidote to the nearby barrage of fast food outlets on Woodhouse Lane.
Words: Charlie Duffield