A slice of home

On the tiny vol­canic is­land of Salina, a new out­post of a small Bri­tish pizza em­pire makes ebul­lient use of the wealth of lo­cal pro­duce from land and sea. Rose Prince joins the fun. Pho­to­graphs by Jasper Fry

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENT -

The Bri­tish firm that has taken piz­zas back to Italy

ONLY A HAND­FUL OF restau­rants over­look the seafront on the Via Ma­rina Garibaldi in Lin­gua, one of the few vil­lages on the Ae­o­lian is­land of Salina. Among them is Da Al­fredo, fa­mous for granita – made with figs, peaches, mel­ons, mul­ber­ries, citrus fruits or even pis­ta­chios – which has been here since 1968. ‘It’s per­fect, isn’t it? Granita is just what you want to eat af­ter pizza, so it is fan­tas­tic to have this place be­side our restau­rant,’ says Giuseppe Mas­coli, who this sum­mer opened a pizze­ria, Franco Manca, in the shop next door.

Recog­nise the name? Franco Manca is a hugely suc­cess­ful Bri­tish chain, founded by Mas­coli in 2008 in a small unit in Brix­ton Mar­ket, south Lon­don. The for­mer e co­nomics le cturer, a Neapoli­tan, brought the true wood-fired or­ganic sour­dough piz­zas of his birth­place to Lon­don­ers, start­ing a mini

em­pire that, as Franco Manca’s 10th an­niver­sary ap­proaches, now boasts 40 restau­rants and is still grow­ing.

Bring­ing the restau­rant to Italy has been on Mas­coli’s mind since he bought a farm in Malfa, a short drive – or boat ride – around the coast from Lin­gua, three years ago. Salina, the lo­ca­tion for Michael Radford’s Os­car-win­ning 1994 film, Il Postino, is one of eight is­lands in the Ae­o­lian ar­chi­pel­ago north of Si­cily, two of which, Strom­boli and Vul­cano, have ac­tive vol­ca­noes. It is a land and seascape of great drama: black vol­canic rock and sand, and dark, inky-blue sea – virid­ian at the shore.

Salina’s own green peaks were once vol­ca­noes, and the is­land’s highly fer­tile lower slopes, reach­ing down to the sea, are furred with wild plants in­clud­ing prickly pear, chest­nut, wild fen­nel and – vi­tal to the is­land – ca­per bushes, whose unique, ex­tra-plump buds are known as the best in Italy.

‘The Salina ca­per is much larger than others – it is a dif­fer­ent plant, spe­cial to the is­land,’ says Mas­coli. ‘I took some of the buds apart to un­der­stand why, and saw that each one con­tains two flow­ers, rather than one.’ Few of the buds will open into the pink-white, whiskery flow­ers, how­ever, as they are har­vested in May, be­fore be­ing pre­served in sea salt. You eat a lot of ca­pers in Salina, in p e sto made with wild fen­nel and al­monds, with tomato and mint, with fresh fish, oc­to­pus and pota­toes.

Nat­u­rally ca­pers star on the piz­zas at Franco Manca. So we go back to Lin­gua, where the fa­mil­iar Franco Manca sign, painted blue (‘it is a colour I have seen on bro­ken boats in the har­bour’), stands

out. The restau­rant’ s ex­te­rior and in­te­rior, like those of many Salina houses, are a bril­liant white. In the air hangs that most cap­ti­vat­ing s cent, burn­ing em­bers and bur­nished wheat flour. At the back, a dome houses the wood oven, built by a team from Sor­rento, which reaches tem­per­a­tures above 500C. ‘They tell me some of the stone came from a Ro­man quarry, so there is an­tiq­uity in this new oven,’ says Mas co lit he aca­demic, de­lighted. Out­side, the chairs and ta­bles are topped with re­cy­cled wood from old boats, and a large white can­vas sail pro­vides shade. Launched in June, the pizze­ria has found a fol­low­ing, among both tourists and lo­cals. Nearby, Mas­coli parks his 1970 Fiat 500, with his motto on the bon­net: ‘Make pizza not war.’

As for his in­gre­di­ents, it is a mat­ter of ‘lo­cal if doable’. In Salina ev­ery­thing is Ital­ian, and mostly from the is­land. Mas­coli pro­duces toma­toes for the pizze­ria on his own land with the help of Si­cil­ian grower Bi­a­gio Ran­tuc­cio. ‘Wa­ter is in very short sup­ply on Salina, so we de­cided to never ir­ri­gate the secca­gno tomato bushes. You can see how small the plants and the toma­toes are, but taste them – they have a very, very in­tense flavour,’ says Mas­coli.

‘ Peo­ple here eat al­most no meat, so we use fish caught here in­stead,’ he says. I try a‘ white ’( no tomato) pizza with sword­fish, an­chovy and moz­zarella, as­ton­ished at the sub­lime way the melted cheese melds with briefly cooked, silky sword­fish, how fresh it tastes. The daily menu of six piz­zas plus one spe­cial is the story of the is­land’ s food, be­gin­ning with

Franco Manca’s pizza with tomato, nepetella and baked ri­cotta (recipe over­leaf)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.