When I moved to London eight years ago it wasn’t easy to find good, authentic Neapolitan pizza. Then, four or five years ago, one name began popping up in conversations with fellow Italian expats: Franco Manca. Like a secret code carefully shared within our community.
“You have to try Franco Manca, it’s a tiny pizzeria inside Brixton market online open for lunch, they make the best pizza in London!”
This is what one of my friends told me once and so I wrote the name down and made a note of visiting it as soon as I got the chance. A few months later my husband and I moved to Stockwell in south London, so we were finally close enough to Brixton to visit Franco Manca. I still remember that first lunch on a Saturday: we queued for about 30-40′ and were rewarded with the best pizza I ever had outside of Italy!
Fast-forward to today and Franco Manca is still one of my favourite pizzerias in London. Living ten minutes’ walk from the original Brixton restaurant (they now have ten branches in the city) means we eat there regularly. We know when to go to avoid queues and what to order.
Last night I had the pleasure to eat at the new Franco Manca restaurant in East Dulwich for a soft launch ahead of today’s opening.
It was my first experience in a “real” Franco Manca restaurant (the other two I tried before are in a market – Brixton – and in a shopping centre – Stratford) and I liked the modern and warm interiors.
Since it was a soft opening for friends and family, there was a cheerful atmosphere and all the staff was trying their best to impress.
They didn’t need to try very hard with us, we were easily won over by the new Franco Manca!
While we usually order just a pizza and lemonade and are in and out within thirty minutes, tonight we enjoyed our dinner of starters, pizza and dessert. We shared a dish from the “small bites” menu: Burrata & Almonds, Wild Pig Prosciutto.
Only if you have done a month of Whole30 diet you can understand how we felt eating the delicious burrata with slices of warm focaccia!
When it was time to order the pizza my husband had no doubts: it had to be Margherita! I admire his resolve to always order a “marghe” (as he calls it), but I like to always try something different and so I usually order from Franco Manca’s specials board (one meat and one vegetarian).
Tonight it was a Mozzarella, Tomato, Aubergines, Pancetta, Watercress. I asked the waitress to have it without watercress and added Parmigiano Reggiano shavings instead.
Franco Manca are famous for their sourdough pizza dough, which makes a highly digestible pizza and it’s true! I barely eat any bread nowadays and I was worried about feeling bloated after last night’s pizza, but I felt great afterwards.
We use a soft wheat flour that at the end of the long fermentation process exhausts its starch content, transforming it in to “noble sugars”. To reach this we need a flour with just enough gluten to hold the dough together at the end of a 24 hour fermentation. The result is a digestible product where the enzymes have done most of the hard work for your stomach, breaking down starch and gluten.
As a result the Franco Manca pizza base is full of flavours and very tasty even without (or very little) tomato sauce.
After the pizza we treated ourselves to dessert: a sticky and light Neapolitan Caprese Cake made with almond flour and served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
Franco Manca East Dulwich will officially open its doors to the public today at midday (no bookings: it’s first come, first served). You can find them in 21 Lordship Lane, SE22 8EW London.
Disclaimer: I was invited by the restaurant as a guest to the preview dinner. All opinions are my own.
PS: do you live in or near Dulwich? Read my post about brunch at Toasted.