I have said time and again that I hate it that so many restaurants don’t take bookings. You either sit people in 5 minutes or if you can’t, then for the love of all that is holly, take bookings. So, when a chef friend took me to Franco Manca (Tottenham Court Road branch) and I saw the queue he had to hold me in place by force. OK, I’m exaggerating, he promised me that I would not regret it. And I didn’t. Franco Manca is one of the very very very few places where I am happy to wait.
Franco Manca do one thing and they do it really well. Pizza. They use slow rising sourdough and then bake it in a traditional wood burning oven. Wood burning ovens (we have them in Greece too and we are in love with them) give any food a very distinctive taste. Combine that with sourdough and you are in dough heaven basically.
The pizza is very thin, thinner in the middle, with just the right amount of mozzarella and toppings. The ends should NOT be discarded. Eat them. Seriously this is not Pizza Hut, this is proper pizza and a small Italian kitten dies every time you don’t eat the edges. This is all confirmed by my Italian-savvy s.o. (not the part about the kittens though), whom I would like to thank at this point for patiently waiting to get into Franco Manca based only on my recommendation.
For some reason they have also started doing desserts. I liked it that they only used to do pizza. The desserts are so and so. The hazelnut-chocolate cake was a bit too overwhelming and dry but the lemon cake with yoghurt and honey was delicious. I just don’t think there is any need for those to be on the menu. Not to mention that people watching you from the windows feel robbed when your plates are cleared and then you have the nerve to order dessert too! I was half afraid that they would bite an arm off as we were walking out.
The Tottenham Court Road branch is sufficiently large without feeling cavernous, the tables are really really close to each other (as you would expect them to be). It makes for very loud surroundings and a lot of “excuse me”s being heard left right and center as people raise their arm to bite into pizza and bump into someone. OK, I am exaggerating somewhat but those tables are really close.
Service is speedy, polite and multilingual. The crowd is mainly students from the University of London campus but lately half of Italy seems to be there too. You know who they are. They are as offended by this need to wait as the Greeks are.
One way not to wait is to order out. Another is to eat very early (or very late). But whatever you do, try their pizza. You will realise that you have been eating pretend-pizza for a very long while.
Go now, before they realise they can charge more than an average of £7 per pizza.
Disclosure: We went to Franco Manca on 10 May 2014 and paid for our meal in full. No prior discussion with the restaurant took place.
98 Tottenham Court Road
Tel. 020 7580 1913