Food: 7.5 Drink: 7.5 Atmosphere 7.5 Overall: 7.5
The legendary sourdough pioneers of Franco Manca started out in Brixton Market back in 2008. Finally, after much apprehension, they’ve opened the doors of their wood-fired pizza ovens to Bristol locals for the first time. Nestled in the outreaches of St Nick’s Market on Clare Street, the newest branch boasts a buzzing, well-lit atmosphere to match their vibrant staff and delicious food. We popped in to sample everything from their traditional pizzas, garlic breads and cheeses, to their newer sparkling wines and the latest fruit of their labour – a unique grappa-inspired digestif, created in collaboration with the South West-based ‘Devon Distillery’ and ‘Three Choirs’ vineyards to celebrate this latest Franco Manca opening.
Franco Manca’s unique selling point for students has to be their price point. Pizzas come in between £4.95 and £8.95 and are all lovingly crafted using recipes developed by founder Giuseppe Mascoli. Hailing from the Amalfi coast and the tight, vertical streets of Positano, Mascoli dipped his toe into hospitality and even lectured at LSE before charming Brixton Market with his pizzeria venture in 2008. While he might have been a jack-of-all-trades, he certainly mastered this one. Mascoli took over an old, conventional Pizzeria Franco’s before renaming and rejuvenating it as Franco Manca (‘manca’ literally translates as ‘gone’ in Italian – so, Franco’s gone). The routinely enormous queues in the market for these pizzas speak for themselves, and for the vision of a boy who grew up near Naples dreaming of taking the pizza back to its roots.
Nine years on, you can sample Mascoli’s pizzas in all 42 of his UK-based restaurants. Slow-rising sourdough is blast-baked in a wood burning oven at 500C to seal in the natural aroma and moisture of the flour, while forming that perfect crispy, pull-apart crust. Toppings encompass the bold as well as the traditional. Their menu currently features Gloucester Old Spot ham and sausage, buffalo ricotta, wild broccoli and spicy lamb, alongside the staples from Naples of mozzarella, chorizo, olives etc. If that alone isn’t enough to tempt you, consider the added side-dish of a great student deal. On Mondays and Tuesdays, you can enjoy any pizza with a free Aperol Spritz or Franco Manca own-brand beer, details of which can be found here: http://www.francomanca.co.uk/student-drink-on-us-find-out-more/.
For additional nibbles, while the green olives and chorizo bites were delicious, you definitely get more for your money sharing a cheese or bread dish. We’d recommend the indulgent Burrata Pugliese (cream filled mozzarella), salty rosemary focaccia or, everyone’s staple favourite, the garlic bread. Skip to the drinks menu and Franco Manca’s wine menu has been handpicked to match their famous sourdough, so it’s worth asking any of their friendly and enthusiastic staff to help you decide. While we weren’t convinced by their sparkling red wine, we loved their new grappa-inspired digestif. Grappa is a brandy made by the re-fermentation of skin pulp after grapes have been pressed, followed by a double-distillation process. As one of the first English grappas (Three Choirs vineyard is a mere 40 miles outside Bristol and its distillation took place in Devon), it is strong, punchy and here for a limited time only!