Franco Manca.

I often think that, in a past life, I must have been Italian – and not just because of my hot-headed temper.

SO DON’T EVEN GO THERE, ALL RIGHT?!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes: I was just about to profess my love of Italian food. If I had to pick one style of cuisine for the rest of my days it’d be that of the land of calzone and mozarella. The dishes are so rich, so homely – and ultimately so simple. Melting cheese, cream, tomatoes, basil. Who could possibly turn their back on all that?

Not I, dear folks. Oh no.

Still, so many Italian restaurants in England get the food disastrously wrong. They skimp on ingredients, use bad quality produce, overcook the pasta, make their pizzas far too thick. It’s enough to drive a Hog STARK RAVING BONKERS.

Thank goodness, then, for Franco Manca. A small chain of sourdough pizza joints, these guys know how to do Italian – and do it pretty well. A huge slab of juicy garlic bread for £2.50. A meltingly lovely baked aubergine that still has the key to my drool reflexes. And huge delicious pizzas giving you plenty of change from a tenner. A long lunch here with the Man and a couple of cousins was just what I needed to restore my belief in Anglo-Italian restaurants.

Until it came to pudding.

Alas, it seemed that the people of Franco Manca had spent so much time perfecting their savouries that dessert was a bit of an afterthought. I’m a whore for good menu descriptions, and the idea of a Chocolate Butter Picker had me quaking in my boots. But it was only a tiramisu-type dealie: a glass filled with cream and coffee and mush. No contrasting textures. Not enough chocolate. No zing. It was nice enough, I suppose, but not nearly as gooey and exciting as the name had me imagining. In fact it was kind of… flat.

The Man’s choice was disappointing too: a Raspberry Yoghurt Polenta Torte which was not only dry, but devoid of all but two raspberries (and with barely a hint of that yoghurty taste I was after).

The only saving grace was a mix-up with my cousin’s order: she asked for two scoops of sorbet – one of lemon, one of grape – which accidentally came as two large separate portions. Plenty to share, and extremely delicious with it – especially the scoop of pale pink grape. But although I had finally got my zing, my lust for something richer – something indulgent and sinful – was left to whimper quietly in a corner. It was as if my meal had no full stop: my stomach, bereft and moping, sulked just like a child who’s lost out in pass-the-parcel.

Hohum.

I’m going to go back there, of course. But I’ve learnt from my mistakes. Next time, when I’ve finished my pizza, I’ll just order some more of that garlic bread. And keep a bar of Cadbury’s in my bag.

So rich, so homely, so simple.

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