I must admit I knew about Franco Manca for almost two years before visiting for the first time last week. It’s not that I don’t like pizza or that Chiswick (or Brixton) is very far from where I live. What happened is that since I’ve moved to the UK I have not yet encountered a decent pizza, let alone a decent Italian pizza (there is an exception to this – an amazing butternut squash and caramelised onion pizza at bar room bar in Birmingham two years ago… unfortunately it was a special and I never tasted it again)*. I mean I lived in Brussels for almost ten years where Italian restaurants and amazing simple pizzas are a common sight in every neighbourhood. Even in Lisbon, a place not wildly known for its breadth of Italian restaurants, I can direct you to at least 3 very good pizzerias. And so… after three years of failing to find any good pizzas, I had kind of forgotten about it. The other day, while shopping around Chiswick High Road I passed Franco Manca and saw lots of people having what seemed like great pizza in their outside tables. My faith in pizza was almost restored and I decided to come back later in the week… and I am so happy I did.
We were greeted by a huge pizza oven and hams and garlic hanging from the ceiling and were seated quickly. We started with the two panouzzi (flame baked bread) – one with Serrano ham from Brindisa and the other with artichokes, mozzarella and sundried tomatoes. While the ingredients were fresh and incredibly tasty the bread was more flame than baked. However, I think I would have this again just for the toppings. This was followed by a glass of Madregalo Rosso (a combination of Sangiovese and Montepulciano, two of my favourite grapes) which was very good – if a bit too light – and great value at £3.30. We quickly moved on the main event of the night, the pizza…
Mr Salted Cod went for a tasty Ham, Mushroom, Ricotta and Mozzarella pizza, while I stuck with more classic flavours in what can only be described as puttanesca on a pizza – olives, capers, anchovies and tomato – with the addition of mozzarella. As you can see in the picture this pizza ticks all the ‘perfect pizza’ boxes: fresh and simple ingredients, puffy crust, charred bits and thin base. My ‘puttanesca-like’ pizza was incredible – a perfect mix of salty from the anchovies and olives and sweet from the tomato sauce and the cheese. While I liked the other pizza too, I prefer to stick to more classic flavours when it comes to a tomato-based pizza (I just think it goes better with the sauce). On top of this, this pizzas tick the extra ‘perfect pizza’ box, price! At less than £7 each this is what I expect a pizza to be – fresh ingredients, thin crust and an acceptable price tag, just like in Italy, Belgium or Portugal. So thank you Franco Manca for restoring my faith in pizza in the UK – I feel like this will become my local.
Franco Manca Chiswick
144 Chiswick High Road
Rating: 9 meatballs out of 10.
*Also I must admit that I have had some very good pizzas from
Osteria Basilico, but these are quite expensive and I only have them as a takeaway so don’t really count as a great pizza.
EDIT: Osteria Basilico and Basilico the delivery service are not the same, sorry for the misunderstanding.