Sourdough pizza from Napoli via Brixton Market & now Brighton
Like many others, I’ve been waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the pizza chain Franco Manca to Brighton. Not having visited any of the London restaurants myself, its reputation of creating simple, authentic soughdough pizza preceded itself. Originally born in Brixton Market in 2008, founded by Giuseppe Mascoli, it’s since been bought by restaurant entrepreneur David Page for a tidy sum of £27.5 million. In just a year it’s expanded from 10 restaurants all situated in London, to 20, branching out of the capital to Brighton and Guilford.
Walking in, the first thing we noticed was that a big investment has been spent on the site. Seating 130, across 2 floors, it’s by no means a small space and it’s been completely transformed from the ski and surf shop it was previously. Interior-wise it feels rustic but stylised, there are exposed brick walls, smooth marble topped tables and work surfaces, side-by-side wooden seating, that are reminiscent of old-fashioned classroom chairs. There are also bi-folding windows out the front, which will come into their element if we have the summer we all dream of.
Dad and I popped by at 7pm last Thursday and the queue for a table was out the door. Thankfully it didn’t take long to dissolve – 15 minutes – just as a member of staff had promised when taking the time to come out to reassure the line of hungry, hopeful diners.
With just a handful of pizzas and a couple of starters to choose from, by the time we made it to the front of the entrance we’d digested and chosen from the short, but sweet menu. If decisiveness isn’t one of your qualities, the six pizzas on the menu will make choosing easier for you. However, if like me you prefer trying something new every time you dine out, it’ll feel limited.
As we waited for our table to be wiped and laid, I spotted the beautiful porcelain floor tiles just inside the entrance, mirroring the mosaiced tiles on the wood-burning oven in the centre of the restaurant. A quick scroll through the Franco Manca Brighton posts on Instagram and it’s clear I’m not the only one who couldn’t resist a #fromwhereistand post in the spot.
The waitress came to take our order shortly after we’d sat down and we opted for a glass of the organic red and a glass of the organic white wine, served in small tumbler glasses. The wine was reasonably priced at £3.85 for a 175ml glass and very drinkable, the only let down was the white needed to be chilled for longer.
We went straight to pizza, skipping starters/small bites, which that day included a panvozzo veg, burrata Pugalise with wild boar salami and finally, mozzarella with Langhirano 30-month, cured prosciutto. I chose the ‘Gloucester Old Spot Ham £6.85, with Mozzarella, Buffalo Ricotta, Wild Mushrooms and “just a little tomato”. Dad had the ‘Tomato, Cured Organic Chorizo & Mozzarella Pizza’, £6.95.
Now I’m not normally a fan of a Neopolitan white pizza but tonight I found myself tempted by the promise of a little tomato and I wasn’t disappointed with my choice. The pizza base was authenticly Italian, with a pillowy light cornicione (edge) which as Franco Manca rightly claims, is too good to leave. The buffalo ricotta was a dreamily soft and creamy, as well as pleasantly mild and nothing like the dry crumbly ricotta you may have tasted on a shop bought pizza. Dad’s pizza was the ying to my yang with the sweet tomato of the base coming through and the standout being the high quality, spicy chorizo that was quite satisfying. The mozzarella on Dad’s pizza felt a little congealed and wasn’t stringy like I’d experienced from The Real Italian Pizza van, but otherwise, it was of a good quality, especially considering the incredibly low price point.
Dessert was nothing to write home about, with my Chocolate & Hazelnut Cake (£3.95) stodgy and the Raspberry & Lemon Sorbets £3.50, satisfactory but failing to transport my tastebuds back to Rome where I first experienced the dessert in all it’s glory.
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
Having visited San Sebastián just a week before this, my taste buds were well and truly tuned into what constitutes gastronomic excellence and as a result, I wasn’t blown away. However, if you’re looking for simple, good quality pizza that’s not too pricey and comes fast, then this is certainly the place for you and gets my ‘Worth A Visit’ rating. I can see myself grabbing a pizza to-go and devouring it across the road in The Pavilion Gardens, or nipping in before a show at the Komedia. However, remaining firmly at the top of my favourite dine-in pizzerias are independently owned, Fatto A Mano and VIP.
Need to know
Hoping to avoid queuing? Franco Manca operates on a first come first served basis and does not take bookings.
1-2 Regent Street
Have you tried Franco Manca yet? Where does it rank in your list of favourite pizzerias? Leave me a comment below so I’m not just talking to myself 🙂