The unit is where the men's department of Debenhams used to be, so it's out with the Rocha John Rocha garb and in with a new wood burning pizza oven. There's seating inside and out and we got a fabulous spot in the window, a great place to watch the world go by.
Service is fast and friendly with genuine Italian accents from the staff adding an air of authenticity to the proceedings. We were pleased to receive a free bottle of water for the table (always a winer!) and a bowl of large Queen olives to tide us over as we read through the menu. There was a selection of starters, only to be found on the chalkboard on the wall. This is a bit of a niggle as not everyone could see it, a printed copy would be handy. However our waitress gave a clear description of what was on offer. We went for a smoked mozzarella and prosciutto board and a spicy sausage in tomato sauce for starters. Check out the photos below, the smoked mozzarella was plump and moist but with the most delicious smoky flavour, large enough to share. The sausage came in a sizzling hot dish and was a tasty bite.
The main menu is all about the pizza. In fact there are just six to choose from as bases and you can add extra toppings, some of which are seasonal and again only on the chalkboard. We added sweet green chilli peppers to a basic margarita base and also tried the Gloucester Old Spot Ham and mozzarella and ricotta with mushroom pizza. As with all good pizza's they are cooked hot and fast with service coming quickly. The blast cooking process locks in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture giving a soft and easily digestible crust. As a result, the crust is excellent and shouldn't’t be discarded. Really very good pizzas.
There is a small but well picked selection of wine and beer on offer. We tried a glass of organic rosso from Carlindepaolo’s Regina Di Fiori and also a glass of bianco from Folicello, also organic. Wine was served in tumblers which was unusual but worked with the overall chilled ambiance, no pretense here, just good food and drink.
Despite being rather full from the pizza each we couldn't resist a dessert, again listed on the chalkboard only. We went for a wonderful lemon cake served with yoghurt and drizzled with honey and chocolate gelato. The gelato was a rather small portion, served in the same tumbler as the water and wine which amused us. Absolutely gorgeous with a dark and strong chocolate flavour, we could have had more!
Pizzas at Franco Manca start from just £4.95 and even the most expensive is £7.25. Wine is from £4.15 per 175ml glass. For a town centre eatery the prices are very reasonable, the service speedy and the quality of the ingredients clearly top notch. Franco don't so reservations but with a large number of covers and a fast turnaround you shouldn't have to wait long if they are full. Our three course meal took just over an hour.
Franco Manca is a fabulous addition to the town centre and we enjoyed two of the best pizzas we've had outside of Italy, highly recommended.