Franco Manca was recommended to me by the owner of a lovely little coffee house place in Cambridge called Massaro’s (completely unrelated); they are really serious about the quality of the meats and breads they serve, and they said I would love Franco Manca. In fact they were visiting London a week previously, and detoured all the way to Chiswick just to eat here.
They also told me the story of how it got its name. The original restaurant in Brixton was opened on the site of a little Italian place called Franco’s. One day Franco went missing and nobody knew where he had gone.
After a while, the new owners took over the place, but weren’t sure what to call their restaurant. So after a bit of thought they simply called it Franco Manca, Italian for “Franco’s Missing”.
Franco Manca is a pizza restaurant which serves really well-priced tasty Naples-style pizza, with an emphasis on good quality ingredients.
We visited for the first time of many on a Saturday night, and found the pizza really great. The restaurant was very busy with queues out of the door at around 7.30pm Saturday night, and I can see why. Although there was a queue, the front-of-house chap knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t leave anyone hanging, instead coming coming back to check numbers and tables every few minutes.
The pizza menu is reassuringly short; there are six pizzas to choose from, with a range of recipes to suit all tastes. The pizza base is from sourdough, and because it’s cooked in a proper wood-burning brick oven, you get the most amazing toasty flavours in the bread which merge in a lovely way with the ingredients.
Franco Manca is serious about the ingredients they use. On my first visit I asked about the cheese which was an English Pecorino – something I thought was a bit bizarre – and the manager came over to talk to me about it with a plate of samples for me to try. He was clearly passionate about their ingredients and told me about the farm from which it came.
Similarly the ham they use is gorgeous. It’s from a Gloucester Old Spot which is supplied by one of the founders of the Rare Breed Survival Trust (founded 1973).
A creature of habit, all my visits entail a single pizza and a glass of the organic red, the Ottavio Rube Rosso. This is a wonderfully simple, humble, drinkable wine. Served in a tumbler (true Italian style), and cheap – but not the kind of cheap that leaves you dehydrated and with a headache the next morning.
The menu has starters and other interesting bits and bobs, but really the joy here is in the pizza itself.
The floor tiles are gorgeous, similar in style to those of nearby High Road Brasserie. Have a look:
The crowd is quite young and unfortunately a little noisy at this time; maybe I’m getting old but the group next to us was so unbearably loud we had to move. One Glaswegian woman had the most unbelievably shrill voice. What is it with the unruly Brits?!
The restaurant was extremely busy when we first went, and they did mess up our order a little. Luckily we were quite excited about the pizza and overlooked the mistake, especially as an apology was forthcoming immediately.
Since then I’ve visited countless times and recommend this place to my friends. I must admit, the service can be hit-or-miss; never rude, just sometimes a little slow or forgetful. Perhaps it’s because they are so popular and get so busy. When it’s quiet, service can be very fast indeed.
Either way, it never stops me coming back – superb pizza, thin with toasty flavoursome crusts. If you are looking for a quiet Saturday evening then perhaps give it a miss, otherwise if you are no stranger to a youngish loudish crowd and you love good pizza, Franco Manca is a must-visit.