Franco Manca, home of sourdough pizza, has been open in Edinburgh barely two weeks, yet on a rainy Tuesday lunchtime, half hidden by scaffolding, it already feels right at home.
I’ll start with a confession: I’m not usually a fan of pizza. It’s too doughy and too cheesy and too tomato-ey…Except I’ve clearly been eating in the wrong places, because one trip to Franco Manca may well have converted me.
The first secret is in the slow-rising sourdough base.Â It’s madeÂ daily in-house, as you’d expect, from sea salt, water, TYPE 0 flour and a sourdough starter – no yeast – making it crisp where it should be crisp, soft where it should be soft, and beautifully thin.
The second secret is in the toppings. Yes, you can have pizza with tomato sauce, but you don’t have to; some come with a little tomato, some with none, and what there is tastes (and looks) as if it was once a real fruit rather than a gloopy soup.
On first glance at the menu and the specials board, the choice is both pared back – there are a handful of options – and fancy: fresh mint leaves, Cantabrian achovies, fennel sausage… I watched two neighbouring tables sit down, read the menu and hesitate, until the server offered suggestions and explained that they could have whatever they wanted on their pizza as long as it was in the kitchen. There just wasn’t room to list everything on a small menu sheet. Result: relaxed and happy diners.
I chose one of the daily specials, featuring fennel sausage and aubergine (Â£9.00) simply becasue I’d never before had pizza with either, and enjoyed it very much.
These are big pizzas. What with the substantial side salad we shared, and the garlic bread to start (we justified our over-eating as research) we ended up bringing half of each pizza home; it tasted just as good the next day.
There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, a children’s menu, wine list and cocktails. You can order take-out pizza for collection. Mid-afternoon, the restauarant was buzzing, and the feel is friendly, casual, and efficient. Our server, Kathleen, could not have been nicer or more knowledgeable – the timely warning about the heat of the chilli dip was much appreciated!
Franco Manca (which means â€œFranco is missingâ€….check out their website to see why) is a chain, but there is nothing of the conveyor-belt, over-standardisation feeling that often comes with chains. The whole experience felt fresh, fun, and, in comparison with the high-end pizzas you can buy in a supermarket and the well-known High Street take-aways, good quality and value for money.
Franco Manca,Â The Mint Building, 19-23 South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh
Open: Mon to Sat 11:30am – 11pm & Sun 11:30am – 10pm