Let’s get one thing straight. If you don’t like pizza there really is no point in reading this review, because unlike other pizzerias, which offer endless alternatives, Franco Manca just does pizza.

On the plus side, the pizzas are not only delicious but absurdly good value for money, and significantly cheaper than almost everywhere else on George Street except Jamie’s Pizzeria and The White Rabbit. At the very least it should give it’s endless city centre competitors a kick up the backside, especially Bella Italia, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express.

Let’s take the cheapest pizza for example -the massive juicy tomato, garlic and oregano version (admittedly without cheese) costs just £4.95 at Franco Manca.

The most expensive of it’s eight options with spicy lamb sausage, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, yellow piennold peppers, tomato and fresh basil is £8.25. At Pizza Express the American Hottest is £14.75.

Which means Franco Manca, next to Debenhams, is all about bums on seats and a fast turn-around, which would explain the queue trailing out of the door when we arrived for lunch on Saturday.

Seated swiftly, after a minimum wait, everyone in situ was looking suitably smug and there was also a real buzz about the place.

Franco Manca’s reputation (it’s a made up name for anyone as curious as me) proceeds it however, having started out in London where it’s fans are diehard, and with 40 branches nationwide now under it’s belt, it’s already a well tested formula.

The secret? The sourdough Neopolitan pizza base, which is thick, soft and chewy with those yummy charred bits, rather than thin and crispy. It also offers a tiny menu of seven options plus plus a meat and veggie special on the board, which again is much more Italian; in Naples they only eat two.

It does mean however that if you want a nice, long, relaxed meal out, perhaps this isn’t the place for you, music to the ears of anyone with children.

Service is prompt, brisk and brusque. There are no starters apart from garlic bread, olives, and a meat platter, but as the pizza crusts at Franco Branca are so filling and the delivery so swift, I’d advise you against it unless you have the appetite of Pavarotti.

There are side salads, but again they are perfunctory at best and served without dressing which is pointless, and the wine list is minimal.

But who cares, because all the love is poured into the pizzas themselves.

You order by numbers so a number two (cue much tittering from my children around the table) the bog standard Margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil at £6.40), a veggie special with goats cheese and yellow peppers, a number 5 (tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives. anchovies and mozzarella (£7.25) and no 6, tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella.

The hands down winner was the Margherita, the toppings overshadowed by the dough. I found some of the ingredients rather floral though, the artichokes and olives almost scented, and less is definitely more at Franco Manca.

Rather cleverly, Franco Manca sells pizza crust dips of stilton, pesto or chilli, and having tackled their pizzas and been faced with some tantalising but daunting cornicione left on the plate, it’s a brilliant idea. The chilli dip is however to be handled with care – only for the brave. Suffice to say Mr Greedy was sweating profusely by the time we left.

But back to the dough, undulous, soft, filling and quite irresistible, you roll out of the restaurant afterwards and don’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

Attempting pudding then might be considered foolhardy but with children it’s hard to avoid. The raspberry sorbet was a real highlight along with the chocolate hazelnut cake and ice cream (£3.95) masquerading as a brownie.

But what I found most heartening about Franco Manca is that it opened at all. Because with the Westgate Centre reminding us on a daily basis of its wealth of new restaurants, including the well-respected Pizza Pilgrims, it’s reassuring to know that restaurants in particular are opening unfeasibly frequently at present in the city centre.

Franco Manca: 2 George St, Oxford OX1 2AF

Phone: 01865 570068


Opening hours: 11:30am–11pm