Pioneers of sourdough Neapolitan pizza and natural Italian wine purveyors, Franco Manca started out as a small concern in Brixton Market in 1986. Now it’s all over London like a rash and has footholds outside the capital, including further north in Edinburgh and Leeds.
Here in Manchester, the tried-and-tested formula remains unchanged. Seasonally updated menus and daily changing meat and veggie specials are served in wipe-down, please-all surroundings: lots of pine hues, clean lines and bright lights. There are even T-shirts. Anyway, the food… Fresh Neapolitan-style sourdough bases are handmade on site every day to an age-old recipe unique to Franco Manca. Legend has it that the secret to the slow-rising sourdough was first procured by the pizzeria’s founder, Positano-born Giuseppe Mascoli, and his friend Bridget Hugo, an artisan baker, near the city of Naples. This was in 2008. Plant-based and gluten-free bases are also available; toppings wise, organic and locally sourced ingredients are used where possible, along with specially imported produce, such as the Sardinian coppa cured pork and red piennolo tomato from Vesuvio d.o.p. on the meat special when we looked and the capers from Salina, Kalamata black olives and Cantabrian anchovies on the “No. 5”. Each numbered, not named, you can now choose from eight meat, vegetarian and vegan pizzas on the regular menu, including fan-favourite the “No. 4”, which features roasted cured ham, wild mushrooms, and a mix of ricotta and British mozzarella cheeses. Eight options is a new thing, we’re told: “For the first time ever, we have introduced a pizza No. 8.” The new addition incorporates an eight-hour Genovese Neapolitan ragú prepared following a family recipe created by Nonna Maria Gentile in Gragnano, Naples, using onions from Montoro, a town in the province of Avellino, about 50km east of Naples.
For afters, there are classics the likes of affogato, tiramisu and gelato, plus grappa or limoncello, if you fancy. All the wines are Italian, from growers in Piedmont, Abruzzo and Sicily who follow organic or biodynamic processes and hand harvest. Beers include local brews and No Logo beer made by Shepherd Neame for Franco Manca while soft drinks include lemonade homemade with organic Sicilian lemons.
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