Manchester is awash with pizza. But then that’s nothing new.
Once Chroma was the undisputed King of Dough, first in town (now sadly deceased), and then establishing local favorites in Chorlton and Prestwich.
In more recent times, it’s been Honest Crust, which picked up on the whole artisan sourdough Neapolitan style of pizza emerging from the likes of Franco Manca in London.
Starting out with its mobile oven, it set up shop permanently at the Market House in Altrincham, and then Mackie Mayor and the Picturedrome in Macc, and has never looked back.
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Then came the excellent Rudy’s.
A slick and decisive operation, it became so popular so quickly that in just a few years it has sprouted branches in Birmingham, Leeds, two in Liverpool, another in Stockton Heath and its first outpost in London, as well as three in Manchester.
Not every pizza spot has such designs on world domination (alright, national domination). And neither should they.
Some are small, but perfectly formed. Like PizzAmmore Napoli in Sale.
Yes, the name’s a bit clunky, and yes, it doesn’t have the stripped down coolness that Rudy’s seems to have nailed so effortlessly.
But the pizza is every bit as good. And on its day, perhaps even slightly better.
And if I’m totally honest, the whole Rudy’s pepperoni situation gets on my nerves a bit. Thickly sliced strips instead of circular slices? They’re monsters.
There, I’ve said it.
On a Wednesday night – which also happens to be National Pizza Day – the place is relatively quiet, but having visited on several other occasions, it’s usually bustling and busy.
Familiar faces suggest that this little neighborhood gem has its own fanbase, not to mention the stream of takeaways heading out of the door.
This has presumably been gathered the old fashioned way – by doing great food, rather than flooding social media with bubbling, charred crust porn.
Put it this way, it’s not on Twitter, and its Instagram has just 10 posts.
As well as this lack of the social media stream of consciousness which pervades the hospitality business, what also sets PizzAmmore apart from the crowd is its irresistible line in pre-pizza scoffing, which, to be honest, I’d be happy enough with on its own.
There are the ‘bocconi’, pillow-like bites of pizza dough stuffed with fior de latte cheese, basil and either ham or fennel salami.
But it’s PizzAmmore’s bountiful selection of deep fried delights which will have you planning your next visit before finishing your current one, from the familiar arancini – balls of risotto rice in breadcrumbs fried until golden – to the somewhat less familiar.
The pizza fritta is a deep fried calzone, similar to the panzerotti which are native of Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot.
As you can imagine, they arrive at the table hotter than the surface of the sun. The inevitable mouth blisters are simply an unavoidable byproduct of their deliciousness. If you can wait until they’ve cooled down, you’re a better person than I. It’s impossible.
The ‘angioletti’ are finger-shaped pieces of fried dough, generously covered with shaved parmesan and served with a soothing tomato sauce to slather on them.
Meanwhile, the ‘crocche’ are cute little croquettes of mashed potato, cheese and cured meat, covered in crumbs and fried.
I recommend a fork used in a sharp jabbing motion to fend off other diners until you’ve eaten every last one yourself. They’d do the same to you. They just would.
For the gluttonous or simply indecisive, you can request an ‘il cuoppo’, a mix of all of the above served in pleasantly rustic brown craft paper, and in large or small size (get large – it’s too much, but take some home and thank me later).
These alone are death row meal stuff, and that’s before the pizzas have even been chosen.
And, pleasingly, the choice is classily limited, as any pizzeria worth its salt should be. Crazy Pedros may very well have pizzas adorned with mini hamburgers, potato waffles, beans and hunks of fried chicken, but this will not be smiled upon come the Day of Judgment.
PizzAmmore’s standard margherita, pillow-ey and just blackened enough on the crust, is solid value at £7.20 (sure Rudy’s is slightly cheaper, but they’ve got scale), and naturally comes with proper San Marzano DOP tomato, the special ones grown in the shadow of Vesuvius.
Plus they largely use fior de latte instead of buffalo mozzarella, always a good sign – it’s drier and better suited to proper Neapolitan pizza.
And once tried, the salsiccia patate ‘pizze le bianche’ – white pizza without tomato – with buffalo mozzarella, crisp chunks of roasted potato, Italian sausage and rosemary – will make you reconsider the whole tomato base thing forever.
So yes, you do have to applaud the ambition of Rudy’s, a true Manchester success story, which, having walked past its branch in Soho just before Christmas, gave me a glowing sense of civic pride.
I wanted to stop people and say ‘You know they’re from Manchester!’
But there’s also a lot to be said for one place doing one thing, and doing it really, really well.
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