A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

Salvo’s restaurant in Headingley has become some what of a celebrity. It has an award winning reputation, boasts fantastic reviews from respectable broadsheets such as The Guardian and The Times and has been crowned Best Local Italian Restaurant by a chef you may have heard of, Gordon Ramsey? The most impressive thing to mention about Salvo’s is definitely the integral role it plays in its home, the Headingley community, keeping locals and visitors coming back for more. In 1976 Salvatore Dammone bought a steak house called ‘The Brunch Grill’ and converted it into the truly authentic Italian restaurant that we see today, Salvo’s. The Dammone family had previously run other Italian restaurants in Leeds. Some of you might remember the espresso and cafe in Stanningley called The Unicorn. There was also the rhythm and blues club Blue Gardinier and Gino’s cafe bar in Kirkstall. The Italian, close knit family business vibe hits you when you walk into the restaurant. There’s a welcoming and cosy atmosphere that almost seems to shout out, ‘come on in and join us!’ It’s no wonder the locals flock here. Paul Smith, manager of Salvo’s and its sister salumeria (that’s a café to you and I) just a few doors down, told me about his philosophy on being a good, local restaurant. ‘We want to be a place where our local customers can nip in after work, kick off their shoes, relax, and soak up the atmosphere after a hard days work.’ This was evident when I visited the restaurant during lunch service on a sunny Friday afternoon. Professionals cluttered the restaurant, sharing jokes, enjoying their food and knocking back drinks. ‘Locals appreciate having the stability of a well established restaurant in their locality and are fiercely loyal to us,’ continues Paul, ‘because of this so many of our customers are now third generation customers from when we first opened.’ As the country is only just coming out of a recession, I wanted to know if and how being located in Leeds has benefited the business. ”Leeds is a great place to dine out’, explains Paul, ‘we are especially proud of staying at the top of our game for such a long time. I do believe that the good people of Leeds rate good, honest food at a reasonable price and this is why we are as busy, if notbusier than ever.’

A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

It’s quite easy to understand Salvo’s success. The restaurant can seat 250 people but with the number of diners queuing to eat there reaching 300 a night, it begs the question, why not take bookings? The answer epitomises the previously mentioned values of being a recognised neighbourhood restaurant. ‘We just want more people to join us’, Paul enthuses. One of these people is Lisa Bardsley, a sales assistant and resident of Headingley, who has eaten a few times at Salvo’s. ‘I first went because other people were always saying how good it was,’ she said, ‘I enjoyed it so much, me and my boyfriend celebrated our anniversary there. I always see loads of people there whenever I walk past after work. Last time I just had a pepperoni pizza but it was delicious.’ This dedication to provide locals with such good food and service hasn’t gone unnoticed. In November 2009, people across the UK voted for their favourite local restaurant. The results were aired on Channel Four’s popular show The F Word, hosted by Gordon Ramsey. Although Paul and his team didn’t win the overall competition, they walked away with an award for Best Local Italian. I spotted the glistening trophy placed proudly on a shelf near the entrance to the bar. I had to ask what Gordon was like, but I got a short answer which I suspect is out of respect. ‘He’s lovely and a genuine guy. He’s 50/50 like his TV persona’. It’s not just the restaurant that’s highly celebrated and successful. Salvo’s Salumeria is the retail side of the business where they sell ingredients used in the restaurant. It’s been open for nearly five years and opens into a café selling snacks such as coffees, sandwiches and cakes. Walking in here is like walking into a little Italy. It’s small yet buzzing with staff, young customers and mouth watering aromas. It’s quite a quirky set out, with different foods scattered around the restaurant on shelves and in the window, as well as behind the counter. As the local university’s campus is situated in Headingley, this seems to be where students come for a lunch time treat. A good idea, I thought, catering for a market who may not be able to afford the costly, yet divine tasting, numerous course meals served at the restaurant.

Paul pointed out a weekly event he holds that sums up his theory on how there is a loyal trust between restaurant and neighbourhood. ‘Cenare Con Amici means ‘dinner with friends’. It’s a case of trusting the chefs to come up with ten different dishes that they choose to serve. It’s something that they do a lot in Southern Italy.’ Salvo’s and its team undoubtedly take much pride and joy in serving real southern Italian food that has proved to be distinguishing and loved by loyal and new customers alike. Events are always taking place for customers to take part in, such as Sicily wine tasting,

A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

Lobster dinner nights and live entertainment. For anyone who is yet to experience the Salvos phenomenon Paul recommends ‘Pollo Braciole! It’s a rustic chicken dish that showcases Southern Italian cuisine at its finest. Strong flavours that need little fuss.’ Well, I certainly don’t need convincing, even if it means being number 351 in the queue.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful