This is said quite often on London food blogs but this time I’m sure it’s true: I think I must be the last food blogger to make it to Franco Manca. I’ve just not found my way to Brixton market to try their pizzas, made with their renowned slow-risen sourdough. Last weekend though, this famed pizzeria opened a second branch on Chiswick High Road, only a short bus ride away from us. We visited on Tuesday evening.
There was a mix of smaller tables with benches for four and larger communal tables – we sat at the end of one of these, right by the beautiful tiled wood burning oven. The tables were set with the menus as placemats and cutlery and napkins were all bunged into big tins in the centre. I already liked the casualness of the place; service was friendly and eager to please. What struck me were the prices – they’re significantly lower than most of the well-known pizza chains and also cheaper than Rossopomodoro. And most of their ingredients are organic, with a lot of the non-perishables brought over from Italy and the fresh ingredients sourced locally. How do they do it?!
We started with a bottle of their organic homemade lemonade (£3.60 for a large bottle) and some filtered water (complimentary). Their lemonade was an odd colour – no lemonade I’d ever had was the colour of…orange squash. I think they must use golden caster sugar or some other more raw sugar for their lemonade to be this colour. It was refreshing and not too sweet but not lemony enough for us.
To offset the carbs we’d be consuming, we’d ordered a small salad (£1.90) on the side. This arrived before our pizzas: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mint, alfalfa sprouts all in a honey mustard dressing. This was actually quite pleasant and we made short work of the bowl. Their menu indicates that salads do change based on the seasons and market availability.
A number 4 for me: tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella (£6.20). I started cutting a slice out and as my knife went through the crust, the surface started making little crispy, shattering sounds. Brilliant. The tomato sauce was very flavourful and all the toppings delicious and just salty enough. The centre of the pizza did go a little soggy due to the sauce and cheese but it was something I’ve encountered before – not sure how to overcome this while keeping the crust extra thin (How do the pizzerie in Napoli do it?). Bottles of very moreish garlic oil and chili oil were set on the tables and made for excellent crust dipping.
For Blai, the meat special of the day: pancetta, rocket, wild mushrooms, parmesan, mozzerella (£6.90). This was a tomato sauceless (aka white) pizza, which was actually fine with me this time. I felt like I didn’t miss the tomatoes at all – the toppings were all so rich and flavoursome. The pancetta was sliced so thinly and became crisp after baking while the wild mushrooms were all fresh (not tinned!). These pizzas were excellent and I think some of the best Neapolitan style ones we’ve found in London (and possibly the cheapest!).
Two things would make this place even better: 1. Fritti like they do in many Italian pizzerie and 2. Dessert. But what they are doing, they’re doing very well so please don’t change that!
144 Chiswick High Road
London W4 1PU
(Oy, Franco Manca! You’ve got to update your website with your new branch information!)