Over the past few years, Brixton Market has gradually evolved into a Mecca for South London foodies. One of the first restaurants there was Franco Manca, which opened back in March 2008. There is now a whopping seven restaurants, with more planned.
Franco Manca translates into English as ‘Missing Franco’. A credit to the Brixton site’s previous owner; the immensely popular Pizzeria Franco. The plan with it was to bring something new to London. A genuine Neapolitan pizza made with local organic ingredients.
Note that I didn’t say, Neapolitan style pizza, like you usually hear. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana has a strict set of rules for anyone wanting to produce a Neapolitan pizza. Amongst other rules, the flour needs to be type 0 or 00 (strong flour with high protein content), the dough is then kneaded and formed by hand without using a rolling or any mechanical device. It should then be baked at over 485°C in a wood-fired oven (like below) for no more than 90 seconds.
485°C is about twice as hot as the average domestic oven. So when the pizzas are placed in there for just under a minute it gives the pizza that crisp yet elastic taste that you can taste on the slightly sour base.
The pizza is made from a slow-rising sourdough. In fact it is so slow that it must rise for at least twenty hours. Interestingly, the starter culture for the dough was given to the owners by a friend who claims to have stolen it from a small bakery on an island just off the coast of Naples. Apparently, it dates back to the 1730s.
The menu is simple. It only contains six different pizzas – ranging from a tomato and mozzarella through to something with chorizo and mozzarella.
In terms of the actual pizza, I generally plump for one of the specials, which always come with a generous supply of toppings. Like the below, they are usually white pizzas but this never detracts from the experience.
If you do go for one with tomato sauce, the sauce does taste fresh and feels like it has been made on the premises.
Franco Manca is admittedly one of my favourite places to eat in London and I’ve put off reviewing it for a while, as I knew how one-sided an article it would be. Yes, upper market pizza chains like Pizza Express have done a lot for pizza in the UK but they Franco Manca is miles ahead.
Sure, the service is a bit a bit continental and the wine list needs development but the pizzas here are second to none. With all the prices around £7, it’s good value for money too. Visit it. Visit it now.
*Photos in this blog post are from the recently opened branch on Tottenham Court Road (W1T 4TR)