Emica asks – is this the best pizza in the world?

Franco Manca. The best pizza in London. Possibly Europe. Potentially the world. Yes, it’s a big call Sam Newman, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.

You wouldn’t really expect to find a serious contender for the highly competitive title of best pizza in Brixton, south London, a place usually more famous for jerk chicken and guns. Walk through the sights
(goat carcasses, shrivelled dried fish), sounds (reggae, dub, one love under Jah) and smells (fishy, meaty, inner city) of Brixton’s rambling street market to get to Franco Manca, which operates out of two holes in the wall on either side of an arcade in the covered market on Electric Lane.

Franco Manca takes its pizza capital S seriously. Their specials board lays it on the line, – “Neapolitan fundamentalism” is chalked up along the bottom. They use a sourdough made from two kinds of organic flour
sourced from outside Naples for their base. As the foundation of a great pizza, nothing is more important than nurturing dough that will become crispy but chewy bases in the wood fired furnace. We over
ordered – three pizzas between me and The Man – and all were outstanding. The bases had exactly the right level of flexibility and chewiness, the crust was charred in a few places and beautifully bubbled from the intense heat. The passata actually tasted of tomato and suggested a long, intimate involvement with no small amount of oregano. The margherita showed off the purity of their approach, the Neapolitan with capers, as well as olives and anchovies was salty deliciousness and the sausage (fresh & dry chorizo) addictive. They only offer 6 pizzas, plus 2 specials, one kind of organic beer, one red, one white wine, and it’s only open 12-5 Mon to Sat. They know what they’re on about and no messing.

franco manca

Word has got out about this place and the queue was a good 40 people long when we arrived. But we’d made the trek from north London to south in the spirit of adventure (with compass, water bottle and
passport) and weren’t going to be deterred by a few other punters. Although, as a side note, there was an amusing difference in the clientele queueing for Franco Manca and those doing their shopping at the African fabric shop & middle eastern dry goods emporium, wheelie trollies trailing behind. It’s run by a frenetic sergeant major Italian guy who bosses this substantial queue of stroppy hungry Londoners around and keeps it all moving pretty swiftly – it’s a tightly run operation, probably not the place for a romantic dinner for two. Tables are shared as necessary to cram everyone in, which – shock of shocks for aggro London- actually led to us being invited to drinks at the pub round the corner by the chatty couple sitting next to us!

So. Franco Manca. Best pizza in London.

Where do you go for the best pizza? Discuss.
Emica’s last post was on Trafalgar Square Tourist Traps.
Picture credit – timeout.com


16 thoughts on “Emica asks – is this the best pizza in the world?

  1. I try not to eat pizza outside of the neopolitan region. I’ll go as far as paestum for a white pizza with zucchini flowers but venture too far from the slopes of vesuvius and you are eating shit – as the locals say (only in Italian). The buffalo mozzarella just doesn’t travel. On the rare occassion I’m forced by company and peer pressure to eat pizza in London I tend to do it by the metre. For this I recommend Fabrizio’s on Highgate Hill. He also does a ridiculas pizza with sausage and chips. But this is only for the Romans. Tourists! I can also recommend Pane Vino in Kentish Town. For delivery it has to be Lupa in Crouch end.

  2. I’m not really a pizza-out person, since I don’t eat cheese. I can say for certain, though, that APK is truly sh*t.

    We make ours at home. One day maybe we’ll have a wood fire oven and get all serious about it.

    Has anyone tried Firestone (Canberra)? Any good?

  3. Pizza Verde, Kyneton. Worth the drive from Melbourne, if that’s where you happen to be, and a very high class takeaway if you happen to be local. Crispy bases, simple local and organic toppings, friendly and accomodating service. They’re even kind to small children and don’t mind when they hear the kids in your group will only eat ham and cheese. It’s very very good ham and cheese, btw. Better than pretty much any pizza I’ve eaten outside of Italy. Better than several of the pizzas I ate in Italy. Have I gushed enough? Coz I’m not just saying this due to the bottle of wine they gave me at the end of my birthday lunch.

  4. I can’t remember what it was called, but this joint just off the main piazza in Sienna, on the downhill side, in a crypty-looking basement, made me rethink the very notion of pizza. Not that it was radically different to what I’ve always liked – thin, crispy AND fluffy base (not that cakey deep pan bullshit), only a few toppings, cooked at volcanic heat – just that it was an order of magnitude better than I’d thought possible.

    The Lady Friend pulls off a pretty mean home job though, heavy on the feta and anchovies.

  5. @shutupayaface

    two north londoners, connected by love of pizza and an Aussie blog. you never know, we might be closer than we think…

    will check them out. that way i can stay on the ‘right’ side of the river 😉

  6. Hah! Franco Manca doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘Neopolitan fundamentalism’ if it thinks it can serve six varieties. The real deal is L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in the streets of Napoli, which has refused for 139 years to serve more than two varieties of pizza – margherita and marinara – the only two varieties worth serving according to devotees.

    Quote from old man Michele: “no “junk” should be used in making the pizza” – yes that means you Franco Manca! None of these fancy toppings, keep it pure.


  7. My father was a pizza fascismo. And his before. I remember as a boy sitting in the hills watching the allied landings in the bay of Salerno. Those americans with their deep pans and pineapple chunks. And the scots with their deep fryers. We cryed tears of joy, tears of pain, tears of anger. That is how you dress a pizza. With the bitter tears of cultural misappropriation. But we Italians know how to take our revenge, my son he now sells pizza by the slice in camden market. I won’t tell you what he puts in the spicy meat.

  8. Enough with the random ramblings of randomness you lot of pizza purist fascisti! Let’s get back on track.

    Q: why does my homemade pizza base got hard like a Sao biscuit? FDB perhaps your Lady Friend can offer advice?

  9. Have to second Pizza Purist, Pizza l’Antica has the best Pizza. Even Heston Blumenthal went home, humbled, admitting his attempt was an embarrassment after tasting theirs.

    He did work out one of their secrets though: The water in that part of Naples is of precisely the right (soft) pH to make the dough delicate and soft while in the rest of the city the water is hard, resulting in a more tough dough. Also, they start with Italian Tipo 00 flour and let the dough rise slowly overnight (if you get there too late on a busy night they run out of dough and that’s it!)

    @emica, if your pizza is turning out like a biscuit, you’re probably baking it too long. I find it’s best to have the oven on max and cook for ~5 mins.

  10. Best pizza…hmm…well, not here in Perth. Too much tendency to follow the American school of squishy, fatty, over stuffed pizza “pies”.

    I’d say the best pizza I ever ate was pizze ruccola at the bar after a wedding in Colico (north east Lake Como) – thinnest of thin bases, passata, rocket. Crunchy, tomato sweetness, rocket pepper. No frigging around; no formaggi unless you ask for it.

    My recollections may have been coloured slightly by the excessive amounts of vino rosso consumed at the wedding. We’ll never know.

  11. @togram

    I get homesick just thinking about pizza at ecco, in subi (that’s subiaco, perth for you eastern staters). run by an italian brother and sister, with dad working the paddle at the wood fired oven, they’re the best I’ve had in Aus.

    they couldn’t compete for north italian atmosphere though 😉

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