Brixton is not where I expected to find the best pizza I’ve had in recent memory.

Jerk chicken, yes. Callaloo,yes. But pizza- no.

Brixton’s central market has an effervescent Afro Carribean atmosphere.

There are plenty of pig feet to ponder in the butchers and there’s scads of cheap cleaning products and commercial size stew pots for sale in the all purpose stores that line the walk back up to the station. It’s a handy place to come.

And there, spreading across both sides of one arm of the bustling undercover market is the decidedly Neapolitan Franco Manca. You’ll recognise it by the queue of people lining up outside.  When we first arrived there were 22 hungry souls ahead of us.

We’d heard Franco Manca was good. In 2008 Time Out voted it the best cheap eat in London. And pretty much every blogger worth their SLR  has weighed in at some point.

But a pizza pilgrimage wasn’t the purpose of our trip to Brixton (a battle with a Barclays branch that was open on a Saturday took that mantle). We look at the queue and thought of moving on. But then we had a closer gander at the pies come out. We can smell the char from their custom made wood fired oven. And we learn that because of their canny calculations of heat and humidity in their ovens, each pizza only takes 40 seconds to cook.

We’ve travelled across the world for meals. The Hungry One has happily stood in a queue for more than an hour and a half just for a taste of a certain steak. A 20 minute wait for a pizza this good is a piece of cake.

So we join the queue. The wait has a slightly frenetic feel to is. Sheets of A3 paper are soon thrust into our hands by harried staff, on the understanding that we will decide what we want before reach the front of the queue. It’s a tightly constructed menu.

There are only six pizzas, and two specials that are written up on a blackboard. There’s a market salad in either a small or a large. There are a few wines, both by the bottle and the glass and a Sam Smith Organic Blond beer. There’s no dessert, just coffee that uses Monmouth beans.

Toppings are largely restrained to trios and quartets,  and the menu carefully lists the provenance of the hero ingredients. For me it’s a number four; with Gloucester old spot ham (home cured), wild mushrooms and a double hit of cheese; both buffalo ricotta and mozzarella.

For The Hungry One it’s tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella. He finds it difficult to go past anything that says chorizo.

At just under £7 each, they’re complete steals.

Not long after we’ve placed our order we’re seated on wooden benches in the window. Our small salad, beer and Trebianno in a tumbler are waiting for us on a marbled table top, along with  proud bottles of chilli and garlic oil.

Then it’s all about the pizza. The bases are made from sourdough starters, instead of yeast. There’s a slightly malted taste to them, but the real kicker is the texture. The outside is puffed into bouncy domes that puff like a  billowing bed sheet. The underneath is charred in circles that leave smudgy residue on the tips of your fingers.

The pizzas come in dinner plate sized circles and slope gently to slim and puddly centres.  You get to cut it up any way you like. I find cutting into quarters, folding like a letter and then dipping the crust into the dripping juices, or a discrete slop of garlic and chilli oil works best for me. But each to their own.

I never thought I’d be the kind of girl who could eat a whole pizza. I’m happy to be proved wrong.

A nutty espresso with a good cap of crema, some banter with the  jolly and jumpy wait staff and we’re out the door,  absolutely full to the brim, at under £20 for the two of us.

It seems good things still come to those who wait.

Franco Manca
4 Market Row, Electric Lane,
Brixton
London SW9
020 7738 3021
francomanca.co.uk

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