Food review: Franco Manca, Upper Street
- Credit: Archant
Remember Cãnas y Tapas in Upper Street? It was that bar where people used to have massive brawls all the time. With its licence under review, it suddenly shut in January. In June, Franco Manca took over the premises. From now on, it’s safe to say Islington’s cops will be paying fewer visits.
Franco Manca, which specialises in sourdough pizzas, opened its first restaurant in Brixton in 2008 and now has 39 across the south.
It’s incredibly popular, with good reason. It achieves that rare combination: delicious, classy and cheap. Two chorizo pizzas and two glasses of organic red wine, for example, will set you back just £23.60. Good luck finding that anywhere else in Upper Street.
Part of that is down to its brutally simple menu: a choice of seven pizzas with a few starters and desserts shunted to the side, almost in small print. The focus has always been on pizza, but as someone taking a night off veganism, I am targeting all three courses.
I start with baked old spot sausage (£4.10): tender meat in a rich tomato sauce. My friend’s sourdough garlic bread (£4.05) is perfect for dipping the remnants.
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Our waiter goes out of his way to keep us watered in between courses. He gives us the delicious Francesco Cirelli red wine (£18.50 a bottle). It’s so fruity and juicy that we can’t help but slurp it at an alarming pace.
For the main pizza course, my friend is in no mood to betray the vegan movement. But that’s no problem at Franco Manca, where half the appeal is the tasty sourdough base anyway.
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Her basic tomato, garlic and oregano pizza (£4.95) – with added veggie toppings (ranging from 50p to £1.75) – satisfies as much as my chorizo pizza (£7.55). The meat slices are small, but they are packed with juicy, salty goodness (badness). Importantly, there are not too many slices, which would overpower the base.
Our excellent waiter insists I try tiramisu for dessert, new to the menu at £3.95. It feels unnecessary until I take a bite. The creamy sweet sponge offsets the intense chorizo from earlier.
Even by the time we finish at 9.30pm - on a Wednesday a month after opening – it’s still packed. You can see why.
Franco Manca: 72, Upper Street. Call 020 3026 1180. No bookings taken.