Pre-Abbey Dash carb-loading @ LIVIN’Italy

Apart from the whole eating out and taking photos malarky, I’m a bit of a runner, a part-time one. Having started running as a hobby 2/3 years ago I’ve entered a few races here and there, and when working full-time seemed to manage to run on a regular basis. It’s funny/annoying how much it was easier to motivate myself then, but now as a part-timer and having zero excuse it’s been far more difficult. Why is that? Have any of you had a similar problem?

This year I’d been fairly pro-active in terms of races; two half marathons, the Harewood and Leeds 10K, in July which was my last race until the Abbey Dash on Sunday. Since the Leeds 10K, to say I’d trained like a demon would be an absolute lie I’m ashamed to say, I’m not a particularly speedy runner and I’m not really competitive against other runners, it’s more about self-improvement. So with my running frequency drastically decreased, but a hell of a lot more eating on my days off (at school I don’t get time to eat apart from tea and a few biscuits), whereas now I’ll have a proper breakfast and lunch during the day, as well as decent dinner too, all culminating in poor fitness!

So the 15th November, the day of the race arrived, my training – maybe 5/6 short runs since July, made for not very impressive reading! I’d planned my pre-race ritual of carb-loading, as I was going to need as much energy reserved in the tank as possible if I was to run any close to a reasonable time. The other half was back for the weekend after travelling like a mentalist around the country with work, so dinner out where I could also carb-load was a perfect idea! After a little thought we chose LIVIN’Italy in Granary Wharf, it’s been one of the places that’s helped to change the area for the better since opening and had always served great pasta in previous visits.

We’d arrived at 6pm, and were a little surprised to see how busy it was, after a couple minutes of waiting to see if we could get a table, the gentleman in charge was initially sorting out a couple of other parties as there seemed to be a miscommunication somewhere. Nevertheless, it didn’t affect us luckily as we managed to nab a table downstairs!

Sorry – poor iPhone photos again!

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One of the things I like about this place is the staff, the lady who served us was friendly and gave us a great big smile which put me at ease straight away. The usual order of things happened – menus were given, drinks and food orders were placed within five minutes I’d say. Also love the wine list, with the labels and clear tasting notes on each wine given.


To start came polpette, which I’ve eaten a few times before, on this occasion they were equally as good. The meatballs made with beef and pork were juicy, not like rock hard bullets that you can get sometimes from other establishments. The tomato sauce was fresh and tasted of its main component without being too sharp. It was so nice, that after the meatballs were eaten we wanted a spoon to get the rest of the sauce. I would’ve loved a few more meatballs in there, but it was a starter. The dough sticks were crisp after being freshly fried, and the lardo when laid on top of the hot dough sticks melted beautifully. I have had lardo sliced more thinly elsewhere, but the rich flavour was spot on. With a little salt, pepper and a drizzle of sticky sweet honey helping to bring it alive, it was a very enjoyable starter.

Dough sticks (Sgabei) with Lardo and honey
Dough sticks (Sgabei) with Lardo and honey

Service was pretty brisk that evening as not long after our starters were cleared away, the main course was brought out. Not that I was complaining as the starters had really whetted our appetites! On the opposite side of the table my favourite at LIVIN’Italy had been ordered – their lasagne. I think it’s pretty special with its thin, ultra silky and soft pasta woven through delicious, meaty ragu. Every time we reminisce about our honeymoon in Italy, eating the best lasagne I’ve ever eaten, remembering watching a young boy eating the same lasagne literally, and I mean literally wolfing it down like it was his last ever meal!! I went for the Penne with good ol’ meatballs, I’m a big meatball fan and like to think I make a decent bowl full myself. This would give me carbs for the race and were nicely coated in tomato sauce and the meatballs, once again were juicy and damn tasty. 

Beef Lasagne
Beef Lasagne
Penne with meatballs
Penne with meatballs

We don’t normally go for desserts but I quite fancied one on this occasion, so a vanilla cheesecake and cherry tart came a few minutes later. This was probably the worst part of the meal, the base of the cheesecake was thick and didn’t need the layer of strawberry gel-like layer on the top considering it was a vanilla cheesecake. Also the whole squirty cream wasn’t needed. The cherry tart was nice, the  fruit was sweet and had a touch of sharpness, the pastry was thin but a little bland and could’ve been a touch sweeter. It was also small as far as portions go.

Vanilla Cheesecake
Vanilla Cheesecake
Cherry tart
Cherry tart

The total bill for two, 3 courses with wine was £75.52 including service.

Food: on the whole the food was great, especially the first two courses, not perfect with the desserts but enjoyable nonetheless.

Service: lovely friendly people, quick and make you feel very welcome.

Atmosphere: a busy and warm atmosphere. 

Granary Wharf

LIVINitaly on Urbanspoon

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