Confidentials talk dough and oil with William and Michael

We love pizza at Confidentials and we got the lowdown on MANO a BOCCA’s irresistible doughy delights from owners Michael Baker and William Moxey. Michael runs the kitchen like a true pizza pro whilst William is in charge of front of house, making sure everything runs as smoothly as an Italian cappuccino.

 Turns out these two like a chat as much as we do.

Mano Men

MANO a BOCCA serves authentic Romana pizzas while Napoli-style pizzas are everywhere at the moment. Can you explain the difference between the two varieties and why you chose to serve Roman pizzas at MANO a BOCCA?

 William:“Our expertise is with Romana style pizza and whilst Neapolitan pizzas are well loved around the world, we felt that Romana pizzas were not fully represented or shouted about, particularly in Manchester. There is effectively a gap in the market and we wanted to fill the void and create an authentic concept to sit alongside our Southern Italian rivals.”

 Michael:“To strip it back – the main difference is in the make-up of the pizza dough and how it is cooked. Our bespoke dough recipe uses extra virgin olive oil and minimal yeast, which creates a beautiful crisp and golden base. We also cook our pizza a little longer and at a lower temperature.”

 Pizzas aren’t just about the base though, are they? The pizza sauce at MANO a BOCCA is knockout. What makes it so good?

 MB: “We create our own pizza sauce from rich Italian plum tomatoes and add seasoning, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. It then rests for 24 hours to maximise the flavour and provides the foundation for many of our non-bianca pizzas.”

Mano Calabrese

Are any of the pizzas on the menu personal favourites of yours?

 WM: “It has to be the Zucchini Pizza – courgette flowers, anchovy, garlic and mozzarella. We did a lot of research prior to opening, including visiting the best pizzerias in Rome and came across this at an amazing pizzeria in Campo de’ Fiore. When we eat this pizza, we can feel the Roman sunshine on our faces.”

 MB: “Calabria all the way. I just love bianca pizzas and combined with ‘nduja, red onion, potato, fior di latte, red chillis and goat’s cheese, the flavours are incredible.”

 You import a lot of your ingredients which – given Brexit – must be a right old hassle. Can you tell me which ingredients you import and why you think it is worth the extra trouble?

 MB: “We try not to mention the ‘B’ word as it makes us mad. Yes, there are challenges with product availability and price increases, but we have amazing partners in our supply chain who have managed to stay on top of things. We have countless specialist ingredients imported from Italy and our favourites include friarielli (wild Italian broccoli), scamorza (smoked cheese) and speck (smoked cured ham). Our double zero flour is milled in the Lazio region and is perfect for our thin crust pizza bases. Our ethos is also to buy locally where we can so our fish comes from Sale Fish in the town centre, our beef from Taylors in Sale Moor and our amazing vegan ice cream from Ice Shack in Withington.”

Vegan Mano

How is your online shop an important part of MANO a BOCCA?

 WM: “We created our online shop during the first lockdown as a way to reach out to our existing and new customer base, and keep them supplied with specialist deli items. It was effectively an extension of our weekend pop-up which proved hugely popular at a time when all restaurants were closed. We now have over 50 products available including ‘nduja, lovely sauces, gluten free pastas, Pecorino cheese and hard to find products such as orzo and trofiette. We now have a permanent display of our shop items in the restaurant for our guests to browse in between courses.”

 As well as pizzas, could you tell us about some of the other dishes on the menu which sum up MANO a BOCCA?

 MB: “When we re-opened our al-fresco area on 12 April last year, we had just added polpette to the menu (home-made beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce), and people went crazy for them. It was a real mission to keep up and we were spending hours making them every day.  Our rigatoni pasta dishes are also a big part of our menu for the non-pizza eating crowd, but perhaps the one dish that brings a smile to everyone’s face is our gorgeous tiramisu – mascarpone and cream, with espresso and marsala soaked savoiardi biscuits and garnished with grated chocolate orange.”

 You’ve really captured the essence of a Roman pizzeria at MANO a BOCCA considering Sale is a long way from the Spanish Steps. How did you manage that?

 WM: “We hope the food is a given in terms of its authenticity but we certainly don’t get complacent about it. We also wanted to add a Roman vibe to the restaurant and display many Italian film posters that nod to this great city including La Grande Bellezza, Roman Holiday and Bicycle Thieves. In addition, we have street photography from Rome in the bar, which now includes a Garlando table-footy table and even our toilet signs use the Rome Metro logo.”

Mano Dessert

What makes MANO a BOCCA really stand out from all the other pizza purveyors?

 WM: “Our passion starts and finishes with the dough – and we are hugely obsessed about treating it with the utmost respect. Everything else flows from there. From our dedication to always creating the best pizzas, to focussed, attentive and informal service. We are hugely popular with families too and our Bocca Juniors kid’s menu really hits the right note. We also have an amazing al fresco location by the canal, and when the sun shines the Peroni and Aperol flow.”

  Sale is becoming quite a foodie destination at the moment, isn’t it? How do you feel to be a part of it?

 WM: “This is a really exciting time for Sale and as I’ve been a resident for over 25 years, the benefit of not only being part of the new foodie wave, but also enjoying it as a local with my family, is a privilege. We all have a collective opportunity and responsibility to put the town on the map and make the area a destination for diners from all over the surrounding areas.”

 As MANO a BOCCA is literally one minute away from Sale tram stop, it’s easy to see how it’s going to become a destination for pizza fans for miles around – and those polpette draw the diners too. Especially given its location – right by the canal and the Waterside Arts Centre. It’s almost like an Italian piazza of sorts. When the sun shines, we’ll be there with sunglasses and a bottle of wine.

 And if you can’t join us at MANO a BOCCA, look out for them at various food events and pop-ups. Last year MANO a BOCCA took their Romana-style pizzas to Salvi’s Christmas Market in Deansgate Square and Didsbury Pride in September.