More than almost any other type of food in the UK, pizza has become synonymous with large restaurant chains, whose quality varies from the reasonable to the downright poor.
For the genuine article you need to go to the home of pizza – Naples. Or do you?
The utterly unassuming Franco Manca, found in a small Brixton arcade has been winning rave reviews from locals for years, and with good reason. They serve a pizza that is, for our money, every bit as good as anything we have ever had in Naples.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. From the beginning, it’s owner, Giuseppe Mascoli, has insisted on total authenticity.
The brick wood-burning oven was specially made by expert builders flown in from Naples. The dough, the key to any good pizza, is made using the finest ingredients and left to rise for a minimum of 20 hours before it is used. This allows it to rise properly before the highly skilled pizzaiolos get their hands on it.
This dedication to perfection extends to the toppings too with the kind of insistence on quality that you’d normally associate with a Michelin star.
The organic tomatoes are imported directly from Sorrento and picked in late summer when they are at their sweetest.
To ensure that their mozzarella and ricotta was perfect and as fresh as possible, the owners worked closely with their preferred cheese supplier, the award winning Alham Wood in Somerset. They did this by flying in their own experts from Italy to help the West Country cheese-makers perfect their technique.
The meat is selected from a range of quality suppliers. The ham is Gloucester Old Spot, whilst the cured meats are sourced from Scout favourite, Brindisa.
These ingredients come together on a menu that offers just six varieties of pizza – far better to offer a few mouthfuls of heaven than a plethora of dross.
The end result is simply mouth-watering perfection. The simple classic flavours let you savour each and every ingredient and every texture. The base is crisp and charred yet not burnt and rigid – justification of a well-honed practice. The bits of unwanted and uneaten crusts, so often left on the plate at the end of meal, were conspicuous by their absence.
And best of all is the price. Pizzas start at just £4.50 with the most expensive still a bargainous £6.90. When you consider the quality of the ingredients used, the passion, the investment in time and the sheer attention to detail, it’s almost laughably good value.
The Brixton restaurant is only open at lunchtimes and doesn’t take reservations so visitors should expect to queue (it will still be worth it!). Fortunately and perhaps, inevitably, the restaurant has expanded, with branches now in Chiswick and Westfield Stratford operating more regular hours. These larger establishments have stuck to the same trusted formula that has served the original so well, with the Chiswick branch accepting reservations online or by phone (020 8747 4822).
For those who already know of Franco Manca, we will be preaching to the converted. If you’ve yet to sample their delights, you have now got three perfectly good reasons to make a trip. Trust us, your local pizzeria will never seem the same again.