Despite having learned (in college, of course – go liberal arts!) that the failure of utilitarianism is our inability to measure interpersonal utility, I’m still a big believer in cost-benefit analysis.
So on Saturday, when Jon insisted we go to Brixton to have lunch at the much-lauded pizzeria, Franco Manca, I weighed the pros and cons:
Pros: (1) Feed my pizza craving that’s been intensifying the closer we get to going to NY for Christmas; and (2) experience a place serving “perfect pizzas” (according to the 2008 TimeOut Eating and Drinking Awards) and that’s been compared favorably to Florence’s Il Pizzaiolo by the Guardian. Not to mention it’s beloved of many a high-standard food blogger
Cons: (1) Schlepp to Brixton. (2) In the freezing cold (as in, I actually saw snow on Saturday morning. Fellow Londoners, you know what I’m talking about).
Left to my own devices, I would have stayed home. Luckily, Jon weighed the pros and cons differently (see, that interpersonal utility problem in action!), so off we went to Brixton.
The good news is that the pizzeria is about three minutes’ walk from Brixton tube station. The bad news is that we’re not the only ones interested in eating at Franco Manca, and the covered market in which the pizzeria sits is *not* heated.
So we queued for 45 minutes in the cold, just to snag a table that’s also – argh – in the cold.
Happily, the pizzas were, in fact, very good. The menu is simple: choose from one of six pizzas (seven if you count the daily special), and a beverage. Everything is inexpensively priced despite the high-quality, pedigreed ingredients.
I opted for a white pizza (no sauce) “with pork,” ricotta and mozzarella. The pork was, of course, casing-free Brindisa chorizo. Spicy and smoky – maybe a tad too tangy as a pizza topping, but well balanced by the nutty, creamy fresh ricotta and gooey mozzarella. And the pizza dough – it’s hot, springy and aromatic like no other pizza crust I’ve enjoyed before. Much more like a naan than a crispy-bottomed NY slice.
And for lovers of the salty tang of anchovies, Franco Manca’s neapolitan is the way to go. In this one, the sweet, juicy tomato sauce and the creamy mozzarella mellowed out the anchovies.
Service was fast and efficient, but always friendly. The pizzas take less than a minute to cook in the super-special pizza oven, so we were served within five minutes of sitting down. I don’t want to tell you how quickly we gobbled down our pizzas, but let’s just say we ate fast enough that the cold air didn’t have time to congeal the cheese.
The most expensive pizza on the menu costs £5.60, and glasses of wine are £1.20 a pop. Amazingly, two pizzas, two glasses of wine and a shot of Monmouth Coffee espresso set us back just £16 with service. But I guess they don’t have to pay for heat, so maybe that explains the low prices.
Despite the schlepp, the long wait and the cold, the pizzas were worth it, but barely. I’ll definitely wait for spring before I venture down there again.
Franco Manca, Unit 4, Market Row, SW9 8LD; 0207 738 3021; closest tube station: Brixton. Open only when the market is open (i.e., closed Saturday night and Sundays).