It’s the latest celebrity restaurant to adorn Leeds’ streets, but what delights does Marco’s New York Italian hold?
When it was first announced, the city was abuzz with news that Marco Pierre White was making a long awaited return to Leeds, but since then, all has been quiet. Now, however, it’s finally opened its doors, so we pinned down new manager Ciro Ciampa to find out what you can expect from the celebrity chef’s restaurant.
Marco actually has four different restaurant chains – a steakhouse, a chophouse, an oyster bar and a New York Italian. We’re being treated to the latter – and we’re not the first. In fact, the brand has already been rolled out in cities across the UK, including London, Birmingham, Oxford and Sheffield – it feels like we’re a little late to the party here, and when you think that Marco is Leeds boy, that’s nothing short of crazy. Still, better late than never, right?
So what’s it like? Well, this is a very different kettle of fish to our most famous celeb chef restaurant. Michael O’Hare went down the Michelin Star route, but Marco has gone with a more accessible, family-friendly concept. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not cheap, think Brasserie Blanc as a fair comparison – you’re looking at £11.95 for meatballs, £14.95 for the pizza of the day and £28.95 for a fillet steak. And while it may not be fine dining, it definitely offers a hearty dose of glitz and glamour.
The floor to ceiling windows make it a bright, airy affair, while the leather booths and velvet seats add a touch of elegance to the the contemporary decor – look out for the Yorkshire phrases on the way in, spelt out in Hollywood style lights. They’ve created a relaxed space to eat out, and one that they hope will bring in patrons, big and small – this is a family focussed restaurant after all.
Whether you go all out American or traditional Italian, it all feeds back into Marco’s passion for cooking. “The inspiration comes from Marco’s Italian heritage and his love of American food,” Ciampa told us. “Marco’s Italian mother had a great influence on his career and home comfort food habits. With this as the driver, Marco wanted to create a family environment where all were welcome to feel the same nostalgia Marco felt as a child.”
There’s a little something for everyone on the menu, with pizza and pasta alongside burgers, baby back ribs and seared sea bream – and the kids menu is almost too good to refuse. You can get two courses for 5.95, and they’re all incredibly flexible, with DIY pizzas, burgers and salads that you choose the toppings for.
It’s all made from scratch, to the chef’s exacting standards, and they use locally sourced produce wherever possible. But there’s one dish that stands out above the others – it’s already the most popular choice in Marco’s other restaurants and it’s a favourite with Ciampa, “The Hickory Smoked Ribs are a legend in our New York Italian restaurants. A full rack smothered and braised in a sweet BBQ sauce with a choice of sweet potato fries or French fries.”
You can choose from a selection of wines, beers and spirits to wash down your meal. Like the menu, the wine list takes inspiration from Italy and America, but you’ll also find a selection of handpicked tipples from their more extravagant Steakhouse menu, with everything from New Zealand Sauvignons to Chilean Merlots.
At the end of the day, Marco’s is a well defined concept, created by a celebrity chef, and while it may not have the personality or the originality of an independent, it’s still a big draw for Leeds – one that has been a long time coming. We’ll be interested to see how it holds up in a city that has such a diverse and ever-growing food and drink scene – so let us know what you think of it.
Marco’s New York Italian, The Merrion Centre, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NJ.