In a city with *take a deep breath* Bertha’s, Pi Shop, Flour & Ash, Pizzarova, A Capella, Pizza Workshop, Bosco, The Stable, Beerd, Bocabar, Napolita and Pepe Nero, to name only a few, a new pizza restaurant needs to be of a particularly high quality to stand out.
Arriving into this crowded market, Franco Manca has a difficult task ahead of it.
Opening in a spacious unit on Clare Street, the London-born chain is currently offering 500 free pizzas during its first five days which has seen queues out of the door before the restaurant even opens for lunch.
There may have been excitement in the queue to get inside, but there was palpable disappointment on the way out. If our two pizzas had not have been free, we would have asked for our money back.
The number two – tomato, mozzarella and basil (£6.40) – was a limp handshake in pizza form. There was barely any discernible crust, two lonely basil leaves and cheese that had spent scarcely enough time in the oven to melt.
The pizzas here are made from slow-rising sourdough and baked in a wood burning ‘tufae’ brick oven made on site by specialised artisans from Naples, who should be incensed about the treatment that this restaurant is giving to the food for which their city is known across the world.
Featuring Gloucester Old Spot ham, wild mushrooms and a mix of mozzarella and buffalo ricotta, I was informed that the number 4 (£7.35) is a “fan-favourite”.
Perhaps it was back in 2008 when Franco Manca was a single restaurant in Brixton Market before expanding rapidly thanks to a £27.5m investment from the company behind Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Bombay Bicycle Club, who are also opening The Real Greek in Cabot Circus soon.
Handfuls of ham looked like they had just been hurriedly dropped onto the pizza before it went in the oven, once again for not enough time, being placed on the table barely lukewarm.
Eating the cheese was like chewing through a bag for life that had been accidentally sat on for added warmth.
Franco Manca’s seven pizzas start from £4.95, with a number of daily specials and extra toppings available for more money.
The rest of the menu contains ‘bites’ from £2.35 such as olives, chorizo and garlic bread; salads from £7.55; and desserts, or ‘post pizza’, from £3.95 including a tiramisu and lemon almond cake.
Among the drinks are eight wines available by the glass or bottle from £4.25; and Franco Manca’s own ‘No Logo’ lager, pale ale and cider – all £3.65 for 330ml.
This new Bristol restaurant is number 42 in a chain that even now has an outpost in Italy.
Every single member of staff was charming and attentive, making sure that my three-year-old daughter and I had everything that we needed, but the pizzas that they serve will not have Bristol’s finest quaking in fear.
Franco Manca, 20 Clare Street, Bristol, BS1 1YG
0117 990 2110
Read more: Your Bristol Favourites: Pizza