Ecco Pizzeria, Leeds: Neapolitan pizza with vegan options
Who doesn’t love a good pizza? I certainly do, and despite most people eating them smothered in cheese they can easily be made vegan.
You can either forego the cheese entirely and fully appreciate the flavours of the vegetable toppings, or you can add vegan cheese instead. I heard that Ecco Pizzeria in Headingley do great pizzas and offer vegan mozzarella, which is surprisingly rare for a non-vegan restaurant, and so I was keen to check it out.
Ecco really takes the art of pizza making seriously. To be able to call a pizza Neapolitan – Naples was where pizza was invented, in the 18th century – restaurants must adhere to rules set out by the European Union and the Vera Pizza Neapolitan Association, which state that seasonal ingredients have to be used, that they must be sourced directly from local farmers and artisan producers, and which forbid the use of additives or preservatives.
As implied by their name, Ecco has a dedicated environmental policy – though of course their ingredients are all imported from Italy, which isn’t particularly eco friendly! A page on Ecco’s website provides details about their extensive use of recycled materials, the use of energy saving lighting in the restaurant, and about how they offset energy usage through tree planting schemes.
Ecco’s interior is light, clean and modern, with wooden flooring and large wooden tables. The restaurant has an open kitchen and wood burning oven at one end, where you can watch your pizza being freshly prepared and cooked.
Ecco have an extensive range of pizzas, and there are a number of vegetarian options on the menu that can be made vegan either by removing the cheese, or replacing it with vegan cheese. You can order a standard 12 inch pizza, or an impressively huge half metre pizza which is intended to be shared and for which you order two different toppings. The half metre pizza is the equivalent of two 12 inch pizzas, but saves you a little bit off the bill (up to 10%, according to the menu).
We ordered two 12 inch pizzas. which arrived very quickly. I ordered the Caprese, which had to be adapted as it usually comes with buffalo mozzarella on top. The helpful member of staff informed me that the Caprese’s base also has mozzarella baked into it, so I ordered a plain base but with vegan mozzarella baked on top instead. The Caprese is topped with marinated cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, sea salt and olive oil, and I ordered additional chillis, as I really like spicy pizza.
My partner ordered the Lombardini, which is cheese free and topped with caramelised leeks, green beans, roasted artichoke, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, rocket and olive oil. The fact the pizza is cheeseless is obviously great for vegans and means, unlike the other veggie pizzas, its recipe does not even have to be adapted.
The pizzas looked amazing, as you can see from the photos.
The pizzas were very good, with the base being particularly nice – thin and soft in the middle, the crust raised and slightly burned around the edge, it was fresh and not too heavy. The vegetable toppings were also very fresh and flavoursome, particularly the sundried and cherry tomatoes.
In hindsight I probably made the wrong choice by ordering the Caprese, as the Lombardini comes with more toppings and so is more interesting and tastier for vegans. I also preferred the Lombardini to the Caprese as I rarely eat vegan cheese, and had forgotten that I’m not really a huge fan. I find vegan cheese has a slightly strange taste which can overpower the other ingredients of a dish. This is obviously a matter of personal taste though and if you’re a fan of vegan cheese, then you’ll love having the opportunity to add it to your pizza at Ecco.
The prices were reasonable, with our bill coming to £21 for both pizzas and two soft drinks. I liked Ecco. The restaurant was attractive and had a good atmosphere, the pizzas were fresh and tasty, and I appreciated the fact that they’d made an effort to cater for vegans. I’ll definitely go back – though next time I’ll probably order a cheese-free Lombardini. With additional chillis, of course!
93, Otley Road