Franco Manca Reading, The Oracle Riverside, RG1 2AT.
It’s a wonder why students splash their cash on glorified greasy pizzas, when a restaurant serving traditional, wholesome dishes takes the same time as Dominoes delivery to travel to.
Franco Manca is an Italian pizzeria with sourdough bases at its heart.
From the moment guests step into the restaurant, its authentic eating experience is brought to life by an impressive ceramic fire oven and fresh herb aromas.
Unlike most pizzerias, Franco Manca’s daily specials selection ensures a unique dining opportunity for each of your visits to the eatery.
Although slightly basic in range, the chain’s drinks selection draws attention to its natural flavours. Notably it is the options of green cola (£2.75) and organic lemonade (£2.30)- the second of which carries a tinge of ginger- that flaunt the chain’s nutritional focus.
Alcoholic options include a small selection of wines and ales, as well as an option of three cocktails: Aperol Spritz (£5.50), Negroni (£5.50), Gin & Tonic (£5.50).
The Aperol Spritz’s grapefruit tang presented an enjoyable complement to my choice of starter: Pizza bread with rosemary and sea salt (£3.45). This dish was highly generous in portion and flavour, while its presentation – sliced into neat squares and spread across a wooden platter- was also impressive.
My dinner companion chose the Burrata Pugliese (£5.70)- a sphere of silky mozzarella on a bed of ciabatta, sun dried tomatoes and garnish- which offered an equally flavoursome start to the meal. And although sharing many ingredients with the pizzas themselves, this dish gave an insight into the freshness and richness of the flavours to follow.
The Main Menu gave an option of seven pizzas and two salads, of which the pizza toppings ranged from tomato and mozzarella, to olives and anchovies. Gluten free and vegan options were also available upon request.
The restaurant’s newest addition to the menu- Alfonso’s No.7 (£9)- left a lasting impression in more than one way. The meal’s original recipe included succulent lamb sausage, sweet tomatoes, mozzarella and juicy cubes of roasted aubergine. And although the meat was an inviting alternative to ham or pepperoni, it was the pizza’s wild garlic pesto base which undeniably vitalised the dish.
For those with the might to fit in dessert, Franco Manca’s post-pizza options include an assortment of affordable sweet treats. And while they may not be enough to top your grandma’s homemade desserts, there is certainly something pleasant about the restaurant’s sweet courses.
The Tiramisu (£3.95) was a rich and creamy accompaniment to my savoury dishes. And although the presentation of the treat wouldn’t win awards, its intense flavour combined the experience of post-dinner caffeine and dessert into one.
And my companion’s choice of lemon and almond (£3.95)- served with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and honey- provided a slightly less anticipated taste. Again, it might not be the fluffy lemon drizzle slab you’d expect, but it is true to its price and citrus flavour.
Franco Manca is ideal for quick bite before a cinema trip or a night in Reading’s bars. And for students looking to celebrate the end of their exams at a pleasing cost, this is the place for you.
The restaurant offers an order and collect service as well as a Sunday-Thursday student deal which totals just £6.95 for a pizza and drink.
For more information about Franco Manca or to order a collection visit www.francomanca.co.uk.