Who doesn’t love great Pizza, fresh salad and a cold beer… we popped to Franco Manca in Bermondsey earlier this week for a catch up with friends. There was a small queue forming as I arrived but luckily my friends had already nabbed a table. I love the simplicity of the menu – just six sourdough pizzas and a daily special. Franco Manca pride themselves on the quality of their ingredients, in fact most are sourced from British producers (including the Mozzarella which is from Somerset).
This is a really important factor for me – we should be supporting British producers and building self sufficiency in the UK. We’re so reliant on supermarkets stocking unlimited ranges of produce all year round and whilst I’m the first to admit that I love an avocado in the middle of winter, I also feel that it’s not quite right. I grew up eating fresh produce from my grandparents garden – I have wonderful memories of sitting cross legged in the late summer, shelling broadbeans with my grandad. And the smell of fresh tomatoes always takes me right back. As Franco Manca point out on their website, there are no good, fresh tomatoes in winter (they source from the UK in the summer months and the Mediterranean in the winter). I do find that my body craves seasonal foods anyway – over the summer its been all about fresh salads and fruits, but I know as the evenings draw in (not for AGES I hope…) I’ll be thinking about roasted squash and more warming dishes.
Anyway, back to Franco Manca. Their wine is organic (much better for hangovers!) and they produce their own No Logo craft beers. A soft wheat flour is used to make the sourdough bases – as its at the end of its fermentation process (plus they use minimal gluten), the dough is much more digestible. I have to say the pizza was delicious, but my favourite was the salad with Franco & Cantarelli Grana cheese – perfectly dressed, I could have eaten two bowls.
Our pizza is made from slow-rising sourdough and is baked in a wood-burning ‘Tuff’ brick oven made in Naples by a specialised artisan. This oven produces a heat of about 500 °c (930 °F ). The slow levitation and blast cooking process lock in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture giving a soft and easily digestible crust. As a result, the edge (cornicione ) is excellent and shouldn’t be discarded. This system was originally developed by the Greek settlers who, in the 5th century BC founded Neapolis (New Town ). They adapted a pre-existing baking tradition to develop this new ‘Pita’, which through experimentation, luck and linguistic distortions, became pizza.
Franco Manca has a small and friendly feel to it so I was surprised to find that there are 25 other Franco Mancas around London. I hope we’ll see them venture out of London soon and start opening out of town branches (Franco Manca if you read this, please open one where I live in Hertford first!).