If you are a pizza lover, as we are, we’d love to introduce you to the most famous Neapolitan pizza in London: Franco Manca. The brand was founded in London (what!? An Italian pizza brand born directly in London? Yes, darling!) by Giuseppe Mascoli and acquired in 2014 by The Fulham Shore, run by David Page.
As a result, the popular brand currently has 39 restaurants across the UK and has just opened its first restaurant in Italy, in the fascinating island of Salina (Sicily). Which is its secret? Most of all the finest ingredients, slow rising sourdough and brick ovens handmade by Neapolitan artisans.
Especially relevant you can try it at home with the recipes book “Franco Manca. Artisan pizza. To make perfectly at home” by Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo.
Franco is missing: Franco Manca!
In 1985 Franco Pensa, an Italian in London, opened his first restaurant in Brixton Market. It was love at first sight – and first taste – for all the Londoners who tried his Neapolitan pizza. During the 90’s, Giuseppe Mascoli moved to London as well and he started working at Franco’s pizzeria. After some years, Giuseppe and his friend Bridget Hugo took over the place. What about Franco?
In the meantime, Franco moved out from London, but people continued asking “Where is Franco?”, as they always know the pizzeria as “Franco’s”. Giuseppe decided to hang a signboard to answer all the questions about Franco. The signboard said: “Franco’s missing” .
Giuseppe Mascoli and the co-founder Bridget Hugo decided to rename the restaurant Franco Manca, which literally means “Franco’s missing”, a play on words to honor the former owner. Or at least, that’s what the story tells.
A proper Neapolitan pizza
What’s behind famous Franco Manca Neapolitan pizzas? There’s a recipe, an Italian tradition and an eye for selecting the finest ingredients. It has nothing to do with the industrial production. It’s a kind of magic that begin with the sourdough and pass through the hands of an expert “pizzaiolo” who makes it happens.
Tortellini&CO meets Franco Manca
It’s a rainy summer day, as usual in London and it’s time for the annual meeting of Tortellini&CO Team! The reunion is held in Franco Manca’s new restaurant in Richmond, with the aim to introduce a new food story: Franco Manca brand.
The three Tortellini founders, Silvia who lives in London, Monica based in Bologna, Anna Chiara from Detroit come to the restaurants with their lovely new Tortellini family additions: Federica, a new Londoner and blog writer and their first Tortellini male representative, the very professional photographer Paco.
Everywhere Italian style
The crew is welcomed by the manager Christian Pompetti. It’s early in the morning and Christian has opened the doors of the restaurant just for us. We take the chance to interview him and Marco, one of the pizza maker here in Richmond. The place is beautiful.
Wood, wood and again wood. A simple and clean style. They leave “special effects” to those places who serve dishes that have nothing to say. The restaurant is 100% Italian for courtesy, warmth, elegance and quality. Thanks to Christian and his staff, we spent a wonderful morning learning a lot. That’s why we’d love to share with you their words and passion.
People make the difference…
Christian Pompetti is the restaurant manager in Richmond. He moved from Pescara (Italy) to London in 2002. With a strong background in the food industry, he started working at Franco Manca opening several restaurants across London. Just a few months ago, he opened the new one in Richmond.
…. and the Ingredients!
Good ingredients, simplicity and craftsmanship make Franco Manca’s Neapolitan pizza unique. “We use organic products and we do a careful selection of the ingredients and raw materials – Christian says – such as the organic soft wheat flour produced exclusively for Franca Manca by Molino Pivetti. Most of the ingredients come directly from Italy: flour, tomato and salami, except for a Spanish organic chorizo and mozzarella, which is produced in Somerset with English milk by an Italian producer. It allows us to have fresh made mozzarella every day. Even vegetables are bought every day, we do not use any frozen food. The only product that we buy frozen – Christian jokes – is ice cream, of course”.
Neapolitan pizza recipe and a “Britalian” mix
The mix between Italian and English products, but produced in the Italian way, is one of their secrets to success. “The slow rising sourdough is the most important ingredient that make our pizza as it is. Then, the brick oven: it’s handmade by Neapolitan artisans. Our pizza needs to bake in the oven at 500C (900F) for just one minute. The slow levitation and blast cooking process lock in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture giving a soft and easily digestible crust.”
Where if not in London the secret is mixing different cultures with excellent results?
Franco Manca philosophy
We can find “Franco Manca philosophy” even in their selection of organic wines and beverage. Everything is 100% organic and they do their homemade lemonade and orange juice. “Lemonade is made with organic limes and lemons squeezed by hand and brown sugar. It’s a unique lemonade!”
Kids at Franco Manca
“The organic drinks are perfect when you go to the restaurant with kids” is Silvia’s tip as she regularly goes there with her 2 years hold daughter and will do the same with the coming soon second one. In addition, Silvia just loves Franco Manca Neapolitan pizza number 3, the one with courgettes (the red version), while her little one and her daughter’s best friends go crazy for Franco Manca’s simple margherita with olives. Have we already mentioned that Franco Manca in Richmond is a very kid friendly place? Another unmissable element, but this time not for kids, is Franco Manca espresso as it is authentically made the “Italian way” and recommended by all the Italians in London.
Going back to the pizzaiolo’s secrets for a special Neapolitan pizza
Marco, the ex-pizza chef in Richmond restaurant (and now in Salina-Sicily restaurant), also says: “The dough we make is extremely soft. The slow levitation is fundamental to obtain a dough with a lot of air inside and that’s why our pizzas are unique!”.
But it’s not just the air held into the dough that make the pizza unique. There’s something above pizza that makes your experience at Franco Manca magic.
We had the pleasure to spend a special day in a place where we felt at home.
In conclusion Marco concludes saying: “Entering Franco Manca makes you feel as you’re in Italy. Italians here feels like home and Britishers and people from other countries appreciates our style. Our customers have positive feedbacks and it’s a pride for us”. Finally we ask Marco to reveal us his secret but with no success: “Every pizza chef have a dream, but the secret is inside all of them”.
But in the end, which secret is a secret if it’s unveiled?
Federica, Silvia, Monica
Articolo disponibile anche in Ita