Taking advantage of a warm Monday evening we wandered back down Leith Walk, grabbing an outside table at La Favorita. In times past this place was synonymous with good pizza in Edinburgh, but with plenty of newcomers to the city we thought we'd see if old faithful was still up to the task.
We aren't sure how best to describe La Favorita. In more polite terms it's a family friendly and traditional Italian restaurant. Under a more scrutinising eye, you could say it has ignominious whiff of a generic chain. This feeling is intensified when a trip to the toilet involves navigating past an army of posters offering various loyalty card deals, kids deals, party room hire deals and charity fundraisers. We guess mass appeal is paramount, but it's not going be a hipster paradise anytime soon.
We were lucky to be sat at a large table because the menu is monumental. There's over 70 items on here, including 22 pizza choices available at both 10 and 14 inch. If this wasn't enough, the waitress (who was ace throughout - shout out to her) also gave us a specials menu with another dozen choices. We settled on some white bait from the fried section, with our standard Margherita and a white pizza literally called 'The Chef's Choice' - surely this had to be good? Then we ordered a litre of red wine. It was only 17 quid, kind of hard to say no to a deal like that. The wine was pretty decent and the white bait was really good. We don't know if those little guys were on 'roids, but they were some chunky AF fish. Served with tartare for under a fiver, they were great value.
This is a tale of two pizzas.
Let's start with the Margherita. This guy was £8.75 for a 10 inch which is pushing on a little expensive. The dough was nice, light and baked well but nothing to wax lyrical over. The sauce was the highlight of this pizza - it was deep and complex and seasoned really well but not too much, just enough to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. There was a shit ton of it too, making it difficult to pick up by the slice but super delicious. The mozzarella was used sparingly, but in a perfect balance with the sauce and basil. This is a great example of a Margherita.
The Chef's Choice... should be the chef's choice to lob in the bin. The £12.75(!!!) 10 inch pizza offers caramelised onion, mozzarella, gorgonzola, beef, potato and rocket - a combination on paper that sounds pretty good. It was in one of those 'pick me' highlighted boxes too so we stupidly thought we'd be safe. The caramelised onion was sickly sweet, clearly from a jar and would be better paired with an oatcake than a pizza. The gorgonzola which we'd hoped to cut through this sweetness was non-existent. The beef was fine, the potato was surplus to requirements and then there was more fucking red onion for some reason. This was all shrouded under a blanket of rocket that did little more than hide the disaster below. It was unbalanced in flavour, way too rich and sweet - and had little resemblance to pizza in taste or texture. Overall it was a big disappointment; if that's the chef's favourite, he clearly doesn't like pizza.
There's definitely good things about La Favorita. They make a banger of a Margherita, the starters are really good value and they offer litres of wine for under 20 quid. It's friendly, inoffensive and we feel like it's one of those places that you're pretty much guaranteed good service.
Maybe we just fell victim to a poor pie, but it's probably indicative of a menu that's way too long. If they had less choice, they could have made the ingredients themselves and rescue some poor offerings.
If you've got a big group to organise and looking for somewhere to cater to everyone, La Favorita would be a good shout. If you're looking for cutting edge pizza in a cutting edge restaurant, you're in the wrong place.
Oh and lastly, finish your meal with a sundae. You'd be an idiot not too.