"It's not burned, it's just slightly carbonized." —Tim Hayward
Tim Hayward, of Britain's Guardian newspaper, visits Neapolitan pizzeria Franco Manca in Chiswick, West London, in this video on the Guardian's website. You'll have to click through—the video wasn't embeddable, but it's worth watching.*
According to Hayward, Franco Manca's Chiswick location has been getting buzz since opening. It opened in early December 2009; there's also a location in Brixton.
144 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 1PU; 020 8747 4822; francomanca.co.uk
Pizza Style: Neapolitan
Oven Type: Wood-fired
I'm not very plugged in to what's going on in the UK or London as regards pizza, but it seems that what Hayward is saying is that Franco Manca represents something new for pizza-loving Londoners.
Which does and doesn't make sense to me.
Hayward mentions early in the video that the US has had pizza culture longer than the UK and that London didn't get its first pizzeria —Olivelli's—until 1934. (Italian immigrants in the US started doing the pizza thing around the turn of the 20th century; Lombardi's took the nation's first pizzeria license in 1905.)
But the way Hayward talks in this video, it sounds like Londoners are freaking out about Franco Manca as if Neapolitan pizza is something new there. Maybe it is. Maybe our London/UK-based readers can enlighten us.
It's always been my understanding that European countries were familiar with and had Neapolitan pizzerias, since Italy is so much closer. My naive perception of pizza in Europe was that you'd either find US chains or small independent Neapolitan places—but not New York style or deep dish, obviously. Who knows.
Anyway, educate us, UK friends!
I just asked North Yorkshire–based Simon J., who emailed me a heads-up on this video, about pizza culture in the UK. He says:
I don't go to London very often, I prefer Amsterdam for a city-fix, but it seems like there isn't much of a Neopolitan scene here at all, it's astonishing considering the plethora of food options! We have tons of Italian restaurants just like anywhere, but they seem happy to serve stodgy crap. Most of my buddies have eaten better pizza in Europe and are similarly baffled as to why nobody is doing this. We recently got an authentic Milanese espresso bar in Leeds, so maybe things are looking up?
My love of pizza comes from skiing trips to the French and Italian Alps, I honestly can't remember when I last had anything decent...although we do have some amazing Pakistani food nearby in Bradford, one of my other favorites.
BTW Buying pizza by the slice just doesn't happen over here. Never seen it. Maybe there's a few places in tourist-London but otherwise nada. Oh and one more thing - I have never seen Italian fennel sausage over here, either as a topping or in a store...another mystery.
One day I'll get a backyard and build me a serious oven though...and make that pilgrimage to Naples.
All the best,
PS There's a local bakery chain here which sells "Yorkshire Pizza" - the base is made of pastry! Swear to God.