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Franco Manca (Restaurant)

Picture of Franco Manca in Clapham, London

76 Northcote Road, Clapham, London, SW11 6QL
Cuisine: Pizza
Tel: 020 7924 3110 | Email to Franco Manca | Transport: Clapham Junction | Write review

Franco Manca Review

Best for: Lunchtime pizza, after work pizza, post-pub pizza.

Great: Commitment to quality ingredients; simple menu; bustle and buzz.

Once, after a difficult day, me and a boyfriend grabbed a pizza. He started eating it in the car. My reaction wasn’t good.

OK, I admit we’d ‘grabbed’. This was no special night. But his gesture was so throwaway. The irregular, glorious circle broken, without ceremony.

I’d wanted to anticipate its savoury perfection all the way home, then throw open the crisp cardboard to a cosy, curled-up ovation; to allow the warm smells of Italy to fold us in a happy bubble, elevating us from the disappointing normality of the day. The pizza was supposed to guild those very last hours before bed.

He laughed scornfully, throwing the bitten slice back in the box. I winced; that slice felt like me. “In your world even a pizza has to be magical,” he jeered, annoyed, and hungry, I suppose.

Well, naturally. A world in which pizza has lost its magic surely isn’t worth living in. Nor was the relationship, as it turned out.

I won’t apologise for my romanticism. Smiling upwards, the humble pizza can’t help celebrating; a bright, happy-go-lucky face on the gloomiest day.

So a restaurant with a heartfelt devotion to this doughy O gets me going. And Franco Manca – a London chain of four – commits wholly.

Its simplicity is an ode to its star. The menu – a sheet of greyish paper in informal font – contains just six pizzas. There are two or three more as specials on the board.

No pastas muddy the water; there’s not a risotto in sight. The only accompaniments are a choice of two rustic side salads – the first with organic alfalfa sprouts, the second with pecorino, olives and mixed leaves.

Starters, there are none; only tasty aperitifs including plump, proper olive-green olives, and pearly mozzarella.

The wine, from an equally small list – two whites and two reds; we opt for the organic Ottavio Rube Bianco – arrives in simple tumblers. Beers, there are but two.

The restaurant is small, the décor is minimal – large bulbs hang from the ceiling, walls are white and exposed brick - and the only points of interest are the open kitchen and a surrealist print. All the signs on this stage read one-man show; a solo act waiting in the wings.

I’d read countless tributes to this diva, principally praising her celebrated sourdough base. Slow-rising, it’s baked in an igloo-like wood-burning oven. I peer inside and behold a cavernous beast. The pizzas nestle there, compliant, poised to shine.

I feel a shiver of anticipation. We have chosen well. For me, Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, Buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms (I took advice not to add a tomato base). My friend, a special: mozzarella, caramelised red onions, fresh spinach, Old Spot pancetta and Colston Bassett stilton.

The passion for ingredient is clear. The menu describes the origins of many, right down to the flour.

And then they arrive. We hold our breath. But there’s a wobble in the pitch and we’re a little disappointed. Size is average, topping scant.

But the tastes, the dough; I cross my fingers, waiting for the chorus to kick in, the high notes to lift the crowd. I’m unmoved.

No, I won’t have it. I chew on, desperate for my star to lift her game. I turn to my friend. Maybe it’s just me. But her face is bemused.

The pizza’s nice. It’s just not hitting the Old Spot.

I scratch my head. The components are there. Take the toppings one by one and they’re beautiful. The home-cured ham is sweet and crisp. The dough is tart, charcoaled, dense. On paper, we’re eating all that pizza should be.

But much like a partner who ticks all the boxes but inexplicably lacks the X Factor, our starlets taste a little karaoke. I can’t fault their value, their quality, their passion, but for me, accused of finding the most mundane pizza magical, the chemistry isn’t there.

The crowded tables around us are raucous, they can’t get enough. Others pick up takeaway boxes excitedly. I’m desperate to feel it too.

But try as I might, I can’t. Maybe it’s because they’re snacking – post work, post pub - and they expect less. But as we’ve established, I can’t expect less. Not when it’s pizza.

I attempt to pick myself up with dessert: a lemon and almond cake, one of three modest choices, but this was never about the aftershow party.

I leave confused. Maybe it was me, not them? Or maybe, like Christmas, the magic has gone.

I’ll try again one day, maybe sit outside, perhaps when Spring has sprung.
...read more

Customer Reviews for Franco Manca

Average (based on 3 votes): 3 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Franco Manca.

“Awesome pizza. Excellent wine. Perfect price. I think it's my new favourite Italian.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Emma, London (5 years 1 months 23 days ago)

“Much like Emily's review, I'd heard really good things about the pizza and it's special dough base....but found it rather dry without much tomato sauce, and the base was a bit too chewy for my liking. Having said that, the ingredients were top quality and the price was excellent. Staff were very friendly and and the restaurant had a good buzz. Would recommend it for a good, cheap, quick pizza after work.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Philippa Walker, Bristol (5 years 7 months 5 days ago)

“Absoultely so authenic tasty light and crisp and fantastic value”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
terry scrihia, London (6 years 15 days ago)

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