No introductions are needed, we assume, for the name Franco Manca – over the past year and a half, every critic, blogger and local has had their say about the much-lauded pizzeria in Brixton Market. And now it’s opened a second branch, in leafy Chiswick.
So let’s get a few of those burning questions out of the way first. Yes, this time you can make reservations (goodbye queuing in the winter cold). Meals are served from 11am until at least 10pm, without the market-hours restrictions of the Brixton branch.
And the pizzas? Well, they’re good – but not quite as good as those at the original.
We love a bit of blistering on our cornicione (pizza crust), but some parts were simply just burnt. We plumped for a number 4 (a tomato-based pizza with an ominously salty combination of capers, olives and anchovies) that was truly an as-salt on the palate.
The dough on this one was also a little overcooked – leaning towards the dry side, the natural springiness of the slow-risen sourdough lost to the heat. Perhaps the staff need to get used to the new wood-fired oven?
However, a variation of an old favourite (number 5), with gorgeous Brindisa chorizo (releasing squelches of paprika-heavy flavour), tomato and mozzarella, was the best pizza; a reminder of how great ingredients are central to the Franco Manca experience.
The special of the day was a curious half-calzone, half-pizza concoction: wild boar (surprisingly mild-flavoured), ricotta and salami on one half; tomato, rocket and mozzarella on the other. Very agreeable, if not quite a looker.
Comparisons will inevitably be drawn. Unlike the seating at Brixton, places to sit are plentiful here; they’ve used the familiar wooden benches and tabletops that have accommodated many a pizza worshipper down in south London.
It lacks atmosphere, but we’re positive it will liven up, absence of reggae notwithstanding.
But it’s a good pizzeria, much like the original, just a little more scrubbed up.