A couple of years ago, Dave Olejnik, owner of much loved Laynes Espresso, embarked on a new project – opening Sarto, a pasta restaurant in Leeds City Centre.
After all the planning and development, that restaurant has opened. Just beforehand, I had the opportunity to talk to Dave about his new venture and what he was most looking forward to.
Talk began with Dave’s inspiration for the restaurant. He explained that he’s had a lifelong love of Italian coffee culture. This culture is at the core of Laynes (Dave’s City Centre café) – from the fabulous coffee to the cosy spaces for meeting friends. This Italian feel will also be at the heart of Sarto – where socialising over food will be central to the restaurant.
He’d been planning to open a pasta restaurant for years as an extension to Laynes, but he’d struggled to find the right home. When he saw that a unit was available on lease in Munro House, he jumped at the chance. It was also the building that had provided the inspiration for the restaurant’s name. Sarto means ‘tailor’ in Italian. This is fitting, he told me, as Munro House is a building with a long history – one that goes back to the days of cotton mills and fabric making. Knowing that, I think the Italian translation is perfect for this new pasta place.
Talk then turned to how the collaboration between Laynes Espresso and The Brunswick came about. Dave said that he and the owners of The Brunswick had been friends for a long time. However, it was over a pasta meal that the collaboration really took shape. Dave said that he’d done the planning for Sarto, and had everything in place, but didn’t have the time to really give the restaurant the full attention it needed – as he is still busy with Laynes. He simply asked the Brunswick guys if they were keen, and amazingly they were. The rest, they say, is history.
Since joining forces, the project has given both Dave and the guys from The Brunswick a new platform for their passions. For Dave, that is sharing great food with friends, and for The Brunswick it is about having that food with a range of refreshing drinks. I for one am excited by this indie collaboration, and if the sell-out success of the recent Sarto pasta pop up events is anything to go by, the team will work very well together.
Opportunities and challenges
I asked Dave about what he was most looking forward to about Sarto. He quickly responded, stating: ‘Actually opening the doors’. This, he explained, is because the whole project has been a real labour of love, and one that has been developing for two years. He said that opening would be amazing, especially as the launch coincided with his 40th birthday.
However, related to this, the biggest challenge that he expects is keeping those doors open. Whilst he is confident that people will love the food (who doesn’t love pasta?), he said that he also realises that running a restaurant is tricky, and not without problems. To ensure Sarto stays open, Dave is planning to go over and above to keep his customers happy.
Talk then turned to food. Dave told me that Sarto’s menu will be pasta based, but with unique twists and Yorkshire ingredients. He said that he wants the pasta to be the star and so he’ll ensure that dishes are simple and fresh. I asked Dave which of Sarto’s new dishes is his favourite. He said that he couldn’t pick just one dish. Instead, he explained that his favourite dishes are those using simple ingredients, cooked perfectly.
I asked Dave how the dishes have been developed. Like the rest of the restaurant, the menu has been developed through a collaborative effort. But Dave said that Sarto’s new head chef, Yanni, has taken control of finalising the dishes. Yanni joined Sarto from The Reliance and brings exceptional cooking skills with a passion for local products and innovative cooking.
Unique selling factor
Beyond serving great food, I asked Dave what he thought would draw people to Sarto. He said that although Leeds already has some more traditional Italian restaurants, he doesn’t think that there is anywhere else in Leeds serving quality, homemade pasta, in a cool and informal environment. The restaurant has been developed as a place that he would want to go, and that is what will also draw other people in. He said when the great food is combined with the great drinks that will be on offer, Sarto is sure to be a fab place to visit. The drinks served will range from local North Brew Co. beers to wines procured from Latitude and Wayward, as well as fab cocktails developed by the guys behind the bar at The Brunswick.
Sarto opened on Monday 21 October. It offers a unique dining experience suitable for everyone. The restaurant is casual enough for lunch mid shop, posh enough for a romantic date night, and open late enough to enjoy pasta post theatre trip.
I am excited about this the restaurant and am already planning my first trip. However, if you want to try out some of the City Centre’s best homemade pasta in a casual, relaxed atmosphere, then you need to get over quick, and if you were wanting to eat pasta for your Christmas party, you’d better be quick to reserve your table, because, even though when I spoke to Dave, the restaurant was not yet open, bookings were already piling in for the festive season.
Feature photograph of Sarto’s interior by JMA Photography.
Gemma, a PhD student at Leeds Beckett University, has been writing for over 6 years, and loves to share what’s going on in and around Leeds. She is also an international athlete, artist and creator of Leeds Food Guide. You can find her on Instagram at: @GLB_racewalk, @GLB_creations or @LeedsFoodGuide