We pay a visit to the newest pizzeria in Bath and discover a real treat for a family meal out

Friday night pizza is something of a tradition with our family, usually at home and accompanied by a film and a huge pile of sweets for pudding – well, it is the end of the week and we all deserve a treat occasionally. Last Friday, however, we decided to splash out with a visit to the new trampoline park at Bath Leisure and Sports Centre (you can read the review here) followed by a meal at Bath’s latest pizzeria, Franco Manca in Brunel Square, just along from Bath railway station.

You can’t book a table at Franco Manca, meaning that there was a short wait before we were led through the tightly packed tables to our place right next to the pizza oven. The advantage of this spot was that despite the wind and rain outside, we were toasty warm, in fact to such as extent that we were soon discarding coats and jumpers, and making use of the free tap water supplied to cool down!

Immediately we took to the ambience and style of the place, with the buzz of the background chatter and the modern industrial style of the building providing a real sense of style and the feel of restaurant where a family can relax and not worry too much about talking in hushed voices.

Throughout our visit, the staff were friendly, attentive and particularly knowledgable about the menu, taking the time to explain that the ingredients were either soured as locally as possible or brought in specifically from Italy to maintain an authentic flavours.

Following the recommendations of manager Gino, we enjoyed a shared platter starter of cured meats, buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil. We were hooked – the platters were cleaned off in no time as children and parents together soon realised that this was going to be a pizza meal a few leagues above any we’d enjoyed before.

Now when it comes to a pizza, it has to be said that my children’s choices are generally pretty conservative – a bog standard base, tomato and cheese, with ham and chorizo for a bit of adventure… However, with Gino as a guide, we soon had them keen to experiment with different styles of ham and salami – ok, not a huge change, but a start.

My wife, meanwhile, went for a tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella choice, complete with extra aubergine, from the main menu. I preferred one of the specials, which are changed on a daily basis, with my choice boasting smoked buffalo mozzarella, San Mazrzano tomatoes, pork loin fillet from Martina Franca and watercress. While the children accompanied their food with fresh lemonade, Ellen and I pushed the boat out with a bottle of the Montepulciano Francesco Cirelli organic red, also recommended by Gino.

As our food was freshly prepared, we chatted with our friendly waitress about the flavours and appeal of Italian meat, compared food choices with some friends who coincidentally had booked in at the same time as us, and generally enjoyed being out as a family. Suddenly those meals out of yesterday, complete with high chairs, portable change mats and bags of toys to keep the children entertained, seemed like a distant memory, and instead we were enjoying each other’s company and conversation. What a treat…

By the time the pizzas arrived, the children – no doubt with appetites boosted by their exertions at the trampoline park – showed their approval with a the type of quiet, enthusiastic eating that is as impressive as any double thumbs up, our middle one pausing only to comment, “Best pizza ever!” before continuing the consumption of the generously proportioned meal.

And I had to agree – my pizza was superb, with the sour dough base the perfect foundation for a genuinely flavoursome, fresh tasting treat. It didn’t take long for us to agree that we had discovered the best pizzeria in Bath, comparing each others’ choices and planning for our next visit. For my wife and I, the light and fruits of the wine were an ideal complement for the pizzas – quite different to the heavier reds that I generally choose and another great choice from manager Gino.

OK, if I was to be harsh I would say that our chosen deserts of tiramisu and chocolate hazelnut cake weren’t up the standards of the starters and main course, but we happily forgave Franco Manca this slight blip. After all we had just discovered a local pizzeria that has succeeded in significantly upping the standard of our favourite family treat and providing a real chance for a new weekly family tradition.