The ubiquity of Italian restaurants in the UK is such that an exasperated city lifestyle website began calling them ‘YAFIs’. That stands for Yet Another Italian; there’s a rude word sandwiched in there too.

Since the 1960s every other restaurant that ever opened on this island has been an ‘Italian’. That’s because an approximation of Mediterranean cooking has long been a lowest common denominator.

People whose dining was otherwise restricted to the microwave and sofa were dazzled as Luigi – real name most likely Trevor – twisted his oversized pepper grinder over burnt lasagne parked on gingham tablecloths.

That’s a bit of an archaic stereotype but ‘Italian’ restaurants are still very much the places unadventurous relatives pick for their birthday dinner. The menus are uninspired, the quality variable and the décor patronisingly inauthentic; faux Roman columns et al...

La Perla, Hebden Bridge. Ravioli stuffed with scallops and topped with prawns and a light cheese sauce

On the other side of the YAFI coin are elitist and expensive

Italian establishments where footballers dine as their Range Rover collects parking tickets on the double yellows outside. La Perla is neither of these; praise the Lord!

It’s modern and tasteful without being generic and austere. The only obvious sign that it’s an Italian is a print on a side wall while the abundance of chandelier-less, old style lightbulbs with fancy filaments give La Perla’s appearance a bit of edge.

The menu, however, could not be described as edgy – not that it matters as we’ll see.

Naturally there are familiar antipasti, pasta mains, pizzas and seafood. It is also very meaty evidenced by a specials menu which is about 45% steak.

For a starter I order ravioli stuffed with scallops and topped with prawns and a light cheese sauce. My love for it is instant; the egg pasta is perfect to the bite and the combination of seafood, light cheese and a touch of chilli balances like an Olympic gymnast.

La Perla, Hebden Bridge

Steph picks mixed olives which are a hit for both her and our three-year-old Rosa who promptly eats all the black ones. Steph also opts for the not-entirely-authentic chorizo and asparagus. She’s slightly surprised when the asparagus comes in small slices alongside the chorizo but it’s tasty and the side salad is extremely fresh and balances the richness of the omnipresent Spanish sausage. This dish is also a hit with Rosa who snatches the biggest bits of chorizo from Steph’s plate.

At close to 50% steaks the specials menu is probably hinting that I should have steak. So I pick sirloin with more chorizo in a tomato and chilli sauce. The steak is decent if fractionally dry although that could be because I’m a steak philistine who prefers his slab of cow moderately well done. The sauce is zesty and subtly piquant while lesser details such as the fried new potatoes and broccoli I order alongside the beef haven’t been overlooked. They have plenty of bite.

Steph goes for chicken tagliatelle. Chicken is a pretty boring meat but the dish isn’t. The sauce is rich while also light which contrasts nicely between fresh cherry tomatoes and the sun-dried ones. An enthused Steph insists I try one of the former and lo – there are perfectly ripe and sweet. The chicken is clearly fresh which is also evident in Rosa’s main.

La Perla, Hebden Bridge. Sirloin with chorizo in a tomato and chilli sauce

Like most three-year-olds she’s ambivalent to sauces so we veer off the menu and order her some plain chicken and tagliatelle. The kitchen is happy to oblige and what arrives at our table is cooked to no lower standard than our mains. Should you bring young children you’ll find the kids’ menu is simply smaller portions of the main menu without any ‘chicken’ nuggets, sausages, beans or chips. Rosa happily tucks into her fresh Italian main and declares it delicious. Sometimes it’s the simple things.

Steph can’t pass up the offer of tiramisu so when the dessert menu appears it’s a no-brainer. The dessert is good but slightly lacking in coffee flavour and the shape of it makes her wonder if it’s homemade or bought in. Bizarrely it comes with cream or ice cream which Steph leaves on the plate. In the manner of three-year-olds, Rosa wants to try Steph’s unwanted ice cream as well as her own chocolate gelato.

I order what is billed as ‘sticky toffee pudding’. It’s not Italian nor is it, in fact, a sticky toffee pudding. It’s a treacle sponge. Nevertheless it’s a good treacle sponge that is just the right side of sweet without becoming saccharine.

If I’m going to complain about one thing at La Perla, it’s the rising temperature of the room as the evening draws to a close. Perhaps the restaurant was simulating the heat of a Neapolitan summer.

La Perla, Hebden Bridge. Tiramisu

Italian restaurants in Britain usually fall into too categories: cheap and unimaginative; or expensive and pretentious. It’s therefore refreshing to find one that captures the essence of proper fresh, homely Italian food. To boot, the service is friendly and prompt complete with waiters who aren’t feigning Italian accents.

So if your unadventurous relative or mate picks La Perla for a celebration don’t think ‘YAFI’, think ‘avanti!’

La Perla

Hangingroyd Lane, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7DD

Phone: 01422 844623


Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri/Sat 5pm-9.30pm

Children: Welcome

Disabled access: Yes

The bill: £76

Would you go back? Yes