Franco Manca: Cooking with London’s Finest Pizzaiolos

We had the pleasure of being invited down to ‘Franco Manca’s’ latest venture outside the capital, as they move their reputation for stellar service and the finest sourdough to Surrey.

Not only were we joined by the Head Chef, Manager & Sommelier, but also Brixton Pizza King and Founder of Franco Manca’s ‘Giuseppe Mascoli’, who personally showed us how to make the perfect pizza.

Franco Manca’s first opened in Brixton Market 2008, where they soon built up a status among the predominantly Caribbean residents for their authentic flavours of Italy.

In 2016 there are now over 26 stores, and it isn’t surprising when you consider the quality and knowledge that goes into creating each venue.

Something that also stands out is the cost of the Pizzas; with prices in the city constantly on the rise, Giuseppe proudly keeps his prices low, with no pizza at the restaurant costing more than £6.95.

We headed out to the recently opened store in Guildford, where we were greeted by the friendly and welcoming front of house team.

The store is decorated in unique murals and artwork, some of which were tongue-in-cheek pieces that added character to the building.

Giuseppe tells me one of the artworks was made by a 90 year old man – comical and impressive given the content.

We then headed over to the brick oven, the wood burning ‘tufae’ is the heart of the restaurant; it is here that the sourdough pizzas are cooked in approximately 45 seconds to a minute, a short time, but the preparation comes with the dough, which takes over 20 hours in a fermentation period, which contributes to its high quality.

It was here at the oven we made our own pizzas, learning the techniques that have been mastered by these experienced pizzaiolo’s…

We shaped and slapped the dough, before coating it in sauce made from the finest tomatoes, a fact that Franco Manca are very proud of.

Giuseppe proudly boasts of their sole use of organic produce, prioritising the use of locally sourced and quality ingredients, also informing us the practical limitations of this. “There are no good fresh tomatoes in winter”.

From the day it is more than obvious both Giuseppe’s knowledge and passion for quality food has contributed to the success and reputation of Franco Manca.

Once the pizza is in the oven, it is turned so it can be cooked on both sides, leaving the sourdough toasted and hot yet soft, with the distinct texture and fresh ingredients leaving a memorable impression on our first outing.

After the pizza making session we sat around the table, while the resident Sommelier talked us through the latest selection of wines, explaining to us their careful consideration when compiling each seasonal list.

Like the food, the wines were organic and used only natural products and yeast during the fermentation process. We tried a range of wines that were on the menu and even some that hadn’t been released yet.

One of the stand out wine makers was Francesco Cirelli, whose organic wines were really quite impressive. The white wine (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo) was so delicate and smooth yet had plenty of subtle fruit flavours, making it our favourite from the night – it will be available on the menu very soon! For fans of red however, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Cirelli is also a great choice, bursting with flavour and providing an organic partnership to the red meats.

Along with the wine, we enjoyed a variety of cured meats and cheeses, including a smoked mozzarella which really stood out due to its gorgeous smoky flavour and thick texture. Included among the cured meat charcuterie was Italian Salami and Pancetta, and two types of Spanish Chroizo, specifically ordered to Franco Manca.

In addition to its unique and amazing food we can’t help but feel the staff at Franco Manca Guildford really deserve the most praise. They made us feel so welcome and were so passionate about the food and service, something which is refreshing and definitely appears to be a key factor in this small chain’s popularity.

Don’t just take our word for it, make sure to visit your nearest Franco Manca for a wonderfully authentic Italian dining experience.

If you want to be more hands on by making the pizza yourself and getting behind the oven, then visit the Chiswick branch, where workshops and pizza making sessions can be booked, for the link click here!