The original branch of this expanding Neapolitan chain remains a cut above the rest
Brixton Market and neighbouring Brixton Village have gradually become a Mecca for South London foodies over the past couple of years. The place is regularly jam packed at weekends, with salivating punters eager to sample the latest pop-up taco stand, mouthwatering burger joint or authentic Thai curry house. However, one of the finest restaurants in the whole operation was one of the earliest to set up shop, with Franco Manca continuing to draw a crowd of dedicated pizza-lovers week in week out.
Having opened its doors in the market back in 2008, Franco Manca’s wildly popular operation has since spawned two additional branches (one on Chiswick High Road and another in the Westfield complex in Stratford), but it’s commonly accepted that the original restaurant is the best of the bunch.
Whereas subsequent branches have been forced to make concessions to their swankier locations, the Brixton experience remains resolutely free of frills. Customers are squeezed onto communal benches on both sides of a pedestrianised thoroughfare, with a few two and four-person tables dotted behind them on either side. The surroundings aren’t the most salubrious, and the smell from the neighbouring fishmongers occasionally comes wafting through the air, but the atmosphere remains charged with anticipation. Why? Because Franco Manca’s pizzas are amongst the best the capital has to offer.
Made from slow-rising sourdough, the pizzas are baked in a Neapolitan wood-burning oven at temperatures of around 500 °C. In more quantifiable terms, that’s more than twice as hot as the maximum heat on your average domestic oven. The pizzas are flashed in and out in the space of minutes, producing a lovely charred crust that strikes a perfect balance between crispiness and elasticity. Put simply, the bases are utterly delicious.
Toppings are similarly excellent, with ingredients sourced from a host of reputable suppliers (many of them Italian, although the flavoursome mozzarella comes from Somerset) with vegetables varying depending on the season. On our visit, we sampled a traditional Neapolitan combo of anchovies, capers and olives as well as the daily special, which paired slices of wild pig capocollo (ham sourced from the neck of the pig) with parmigiano and wild rocket on a tomato and mozzarella base. Highly recommended.
With prices for all pizzas hovering around the £7 mark, Franco Manca offers superb value for what you’re getting. Starters and desserts are more or less non-existent at this branch, and while salads are available for those in the mood for something lighter, you’d be a fool to pass up out on some of the best pizza this side of Naples. That said, Franco Manca operates a no booking policy, so be prepared to queue for it!
1 Pizza no. 5
1 Daily Special
1 Green Daemon Pale Ale
1 Ottavio Rube Blanco
Unit 4, Market Row