A Pig's search for a good feed. Food and Travel, London and Abroad...
Thursday, 21 April 2011
Franco Manca (Chiswick)
So what to say about Franco Manca in Chiswick? Well, it's a very Chiswick, rather suburban rendition of the equally very Brixton, frantic pizza assembly line of the original location. So far, they're the only two, so I can still stomach it chain-wise. Rumours abound of venture capitalists and Westfield and roll-outs, and other scary 'jump the shark' interventions which usually ring the bell for a chain's kudos.
I remember when I used to obsess about GBK, for example. Byron, still good, is teetering on the edge of ubiquity and certainly less exciting. Wahaca's shown some signs of quality slide...the enchiladas have been dumbed down for one.
But I digress. Francos has still got it. The premise is truly authentic Neapolitan pizzas, with provenance at every turn. San Marzano tomatoes, organic Italian wines but also some nice local touches, such as meats and cheeses from Somerset.
The vibe here isn't clear - it has some canteen elements of shared tables, quick eating and some nice outdoor seating, but towards the back, it's more traditional, with some zany Italian tiling - authentically lurid in itself. The beast of an oven is similarly tiled. Service is fine, but really it's the taste that matters and it definitely sings out...
Forgoing the inexplicably generous yet cheap platters for starters, we go for a couple of pizzas. The chorizo one comes with two different types, a dry and a semi-dry. The meat special that day (meat and veg specials change daily - the curiosity keeps me coming back) is with pancetta, rocket and parmesan shavings. Pizzas range between £5 and £7.
Everything tastes so fresh. You can actually taste the tomatoes, and the two types of mozzarella, and of course the meat. And the charred, imperfect shaped crust is possibly the nicest part, despite being cut of and left in many a pizza place. It's great proof that excellent ingredients and pure simplicity can often trump technique and inventiveness.
An affogato to finish (is there a better example of efficiency, combining coffee and dessert?) - at just £2.25, rounds things off very nicely. The vanilla is malted, and the espresso is Monmouth. Tick!
affogato: the perfect workday lunch dessert?
With a rustic tumbler of organic red (£3) or a beer, Francos never fails to put you in a holiday mood, albeit very briefly. I've not been to Naples, but my Neapolitan colleague brings her elderly mama here. That's trust enough for me. Here's hoping there isn't one in every new shopping mall in 2012.
Food – 9/10 Drink – 8/10 Service – 7/10 Value – 9/10 (£10-15 per head, with wine or beer) Tap water tales – 6/10 (room temperature carafe) Staff Hotness – 7/10 (pretty Italian girls, some gruffer blokes manning the oven)