Neil Sowerby examines the latest contender for Manchester's best pizzeria
What do all the best pizza purveyors have in common? Obviously a long-proved, hand-stretched crust, from 00 Grade Capuro flour, that straddles the divide between crisp and chewy. Basic toppings that are, well, the tops. Expect name-checks of San Marzano tomatoes, Fior di Latte mozzarella and fresh basil plucked straight from the pot. Cured meats? That spicy nduja salumi or San Daniele, superior prosciutto. Strew them on a base, paddle it into a wood-fired inferno and Hey Pesto! (not that a Genoan sauce belongs on a pizza) it’s overlapping a plate winging your way.
The buzz word is Neapolitan. It’s engraved on the Ancoats window of Rudy’s, contenders for the city’s finest topped doughs. The duo behind it, Jim Morgan and Kate Wilson, did their research in Old Napoli’s pizzerie, checking out the likes of Di Matteo, Trianon da Ciro (my favourite) and the mecca for true purists, Da Michele on the Via Cesare Sercale, which only does two versions – Marinara and Margherita.
Meanwhile the latest contender, Proove on West Didsbury's Burton Road, has come all the way from the People’s Republic of Sheffield, even if the chefs are decidedly Italian. Keeping a watchful eye on my Diavolo baking at 350 degrees was head chef of the original Proove, Michele Magnotta, who actually hails from Caserta, just outside Naples. He let me sample a range of moreish biscuits he’d baked earlier while the impressive tiled oven was heating up.
These ovens are the centrepiece of all the new wave pizzerias, run by English aficionados – as well as Rudy’s and Proove, you'll find them in Chorlton's Double 00, 6/Cut in Monton, Ply in the Northern Quarter and, my personal favourite, Honest Crust, the beating heart of Altrincham market.
So how does Proove compare? Well, it’s certainly the sleekest looking with an open frontage onto the cooler than ever Burton Road. I like the abstract ziz zag walls and the dangly copper light fittings, though three times I stand up and bang my head. Fortunately no lasting damage to lamp or head.
It’s good to see local Burton Road Brewery on the taps, but I go for Alphabet’s best beer, the A to K Oatmeal Pale Ale, a little pricy at £5.40 a pint. The house red Ca’ Lunga ‘Incantesimo’ (£4.20 for 175ml) is a perfectly acceptable siumple Sangioves, but I’d recommend trading up to the Aglianico Rocco del Dragone (£6), beautiful dark fruit with added oak and the tiniest hint of bitterness.
It went so well with an exemplary meat and cheese antipasti sharing plate (£10.50), showcasing quality ingredients. The same San Daniele ham was the main item on an eponymous pizza for £11.50, co-stars those San Marzano sauce-friendly tomatoes and the cow’s milk Fior di Latte. Both feature again as the backdrop to the nduja and fennel salami atop the Diavolo (£11.20). The crust lets them down a mite – fine but without the substance of Honest Crust or Rudy’s.
Accompanying is one of the saddest salads I can recall. We asked for a small giardino salad – a few stray leaves from a packet, cherry tomatoes and an olive or two with a barely noticeable dressing. £4 please. Perfunctory.
Meanwhile, over in Naples, my spies tell me (actually it was on Facebook), Marcello di Stefano of the San Carlo dynasty and their head chef, the piratical Filippo Pagani, are researching for their new project, Pizza Madre. More Italians cooking proper pizza – whatever next?
Proove, 160 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 1LH. Tel: 0161 669 9061.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God himself)
antipasti 8, San Daniele pizza 8, Diavolo pizza 8, salad 4
Stylish hang-out – maybe needs checked table cloths?
Fine but lacking the streetwise gusto of Spaccanapoli.