Sunday, 30 July 2017

Franco Manca, Reading Launch & Review

Another day, another eatery popping up in central Reading. I've heard people, mainly bloggers, rave about sourdough pizzeria, Franco Manca and have been meaning to try it for myself on recent trips to London which unfortunately never came to fruition. It's popularity no doubt sparks from it's authentic, Neapolitan food with wallet-friendly price points (their most costly pizza will set you back £8.25)

Franco Manca's first restaurant opened in Brixton in 2008 and the chain has since grown, with branches predominantly in London but also spreading across the South to Bournemouth, Brighton, Guildford, Southampton and now Reading. After the announcement of the new local restaurant opening, I couldn't wait to see what the fuss was all about. Keep reading to find out more about the evening of pizza making and wine tasting!

Situated on the Oracle riverside, Franco Manca is alongside another new foodie favourite, The Real Greek. Amy, Liam and I were greeted with samples of pizza before we even made it through the door. On being seated in the modern and light restaurant, we were quickly provided with our drink of choice and mingled with the other bloggers before the wine tasting began.
Francesco was our wine conoisseur for the evening and was both passionate and informative. He started us off with their biodynamic sparkling wine which was refreshing and dangerously easy to drink. After that we tried 3 white but all very different wines.Whilst explaining the wines are organic, free from pesticides/fertilisers, exclusive to Franco Manca and how he even helped design the labels.
Whilst we were chatting amongst ourselves, we were presented with some scrumptious-looking starters: balls of buffalo mozzarella with rocket, burrata pugliese (creamy mozzarella parcels), pig fennel salami, red peppers, artichokes, rosemary bread and pesto for dipping. The cheeses tasted so fresh, light and creamy those, and the pesto, which was the best pesto I've ever had the pleasure of tasting thanks to the addition of garlic, were the stand out pieces of this varied spread we got to try.
We broke into small groups to be talked through and shown how the dough is made from scratch and then allowed to go into the kitchen to make our very own pizza from start to finish. Alphonso described the simple but precise process of dough making. It's simple as only flour, yeast, salt and water are used but precise due to the science behind the type of yeast used and how long the dough is left to rise and so on. As with Francesco, Alphonso was knowledgeable and passionate about his craft.
Then I volunteered, chef hat and all, to try out making my own, using one of the ready-made balls of dough. Starting by stretching it out by hand and then adding the sauce, cheese and toppings. I plumped for chorizo, red onion, chicken and that special pesto. Once I was done sprinkling those all over, it was baking time. The thing that surprised me the most about the process was how the pizza was cooked in just 45 seconds and the pizza has to be moved just once in this time to prevent it sticking.
After making our pizzas we ordered extra pizzas to try. In terms of menu, I really like how Franco Manca keep it simple with just six pizzas on their menu and the option to add additional toppings to create infinite combinations for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The base is dairy-free too so lose the cheese and you've got yourself a vegan-friendly pizza too. So, what did I think of the pizza itself? Well, the dough is definitely the showstopper - in particular the crusts, or the "cornicione" which are soft and chewy. There's a decent distribution of high quality toppings and the centre cooked enough to ensure it's not sloppy and holds it's shape.
Somehow there was still room to try samples of some of the desserts on the menu which is just as well because there some serious sweet treats up for grabs: homemade tiramisu, chocolate hazelnut cake and lemon almond cake with chocolate and vanilla ice cream on the side. I'm not a coffee fan so the former wasn't up my street but those who do, said it was super soft and creamy. I love all things lemon and the cake didn't disappoint, it was dense, sticky and a triumph when teamed with the vanilla ice cream.
And that was it for our night at Franco Manca! We all left very full of both pizza and wine. A big, big thank you to Franco Manca for having us for such a fun event. All the staff are so friendly, helpful & enthusiastic about their place of work. I can't wait to visit again.
*Written in collaboration with Franco Manca who invited me to attend their restaurant in exchange for an honest review. All content and views are my own.
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