Off of the back of our prior visit for the ‘pizza making’ evening, the generous team at Franco Manca invited us down for a more conventional sampling of food. Impressed with our previous visit and hungry for more, we trotted down one afternoon to give their regular menu a try.
We arrived to a familiar smiling face and the warm, welcoming atmosphere – something so synonymous with Italian dining. Each taking our seats, we gazed around the rustically dressed room, now that we weren’t flipping dough behind the counter, we had time to take in the venue’s décor. Mosaic tiles, wooden cladding and highlights of exposed brickwork made up its shell, with sporadically placed pendant lights giving the place a warm glow. Our table – laid with curvaceous tumblers, tin cutlery pots and an oil caddy – was already set with menus and so the perusal began.
The theme is pizza, sourdough pizza, to be more precise. A modern reincarnation of traditional Napolese recipes, the Franco Manca pizza is far beyond your ordinary deep dish, in so many ways. Take the dough for example, which is made using a signature ‘sourdough starter’ (a pre-ferment of organic flour and water) that is prepared and constantly fed to keep the yeast alive.
I scanned the options, whilst enjoying the exquisite cold cuts and organic mozzarella our host had brought over to wet our appetites. The list is simple, refined and subject to season, with only ever a handful or so of pizzas (and drinks) on the menu. Customisation is also an option and their ginormous blackboard is usually teaming with delicious daily specials.
Their drinks menu is a short and sweet combination of organic beer and cider, alternative wines and handmade juices – all of which are exclusive to the brand. Seeing as this was a lunchtime visit, I thought I’d go with something less potent – so cider it was! Crisp, distinctly fruity and slightly sparkling it was a pleasant all-rounder.
For research purposes I decided to go for their distinctive ‘corgette and basil pizza’. In the absence of a tomato, was a creamy (no doubt cheese filled) base, topped with chargrilled corgettes, chucky flakes of Parmesan and mozzarella, ricotta and a sprinkle of aromatic basil. Every mouthful was divine. The dough itself was moist (but not soggy) and packed with elasticity – making each bite light and moreish.
Around the table was an array of gorgeous looking pizzas. Whichever one we were discussing the commentary kept coming back to just how fresh and flavoursome the toppings were. The chorizo was smoky and packed with spices. The Parmesan, which by the way is technically a ‘Grana’, especially made for the company is flawless and unlike anything of its kind; everything in fact is a testament to their high-quality produce and clearly treated with respect by the chefs. It’s a beautiful thing, to taste food that has so much passion behind it. It’s not exactly something I can describe, but once you’ve tasted it, you’ll know the difference.
We sat and took in the aroma of fresh pizza going to guests around us, reminding of us the amazing meal we had just eaten. Our Italian affair wouldn’t have been complete without a caffeinated something and so our attentive host saw to it that we each had a coffee for the road. The whole experience was magical; we had enjoyed a uniquely simple menu and come away excited about what we had eaten, with each of us reminiscing on the way back to the office. With the most expensive pizza on the menu being a mere £8.25, Franco Manca is a foodie’s dream. Fresh qualitative ingredients, beautiful combinations and radically fair prices make this pizza paradise a winner for me.
By Charlotte Williams
t. 01202 022068
a. Franco Manca @ Debenhams – The Square, Bournemouth BH2 5LY