Review – Fatto a Mano
London Road has seen a transformation over the past 18 months – it is now the road du jour for respectable food destinations to open their doors. The latest addition to this Brighton food hotspot? A gorgeous Italian pizzeria called Fatto a Mano.
Owned by the people behind popular North Laine cafe Bread and Milk, Fatto a Mano carries over the same trendy charm with its white tiles, blue lettering and sleek wooden tables. The wood-fired oven is a pizza-lover’s dream. Domed and shielded in white and blue mosaic tiling, it stands proud in the front-left corner of the restaurant. Reaching temperatures of 450 degrees, it’s an eye-catching centrepiece.
The owners have done wonders with the space, redesigning it from a charity shop into a smart split-level restaurant. A snug bar runs around the chefs’ prep area where you can watch the team at work, and the wood-topped tables dotted about are packed pretty close together. We could hear what our Italian neighbours were saying, but (thankfully, perhaps) couldn’t understand a word of their heated conversation.
We arrived on what we thought would be a quiet Tuesday, only to find the place full to the rafters – word has certainly got out that there’s a new pizza place in town. Couples were sitting at the bar sharing pizza and prosecco, families were enjoying quality time together and table after table of friends knocked back wine and beer – all filling the restaurant with a lively atmosphere and lots of laughter.
The menu at Fatto a Mano is simple. Starters and sides, red pizza (with San Marzano tomato base), white pizza (without tomato base) and a handful of desserts. It pairs with an Italian wine list: reds from Tuscany and Sicily, whites from Abruzzo and Campania. If booze isn’t your thing, it’s pleasing to find San Pellegrino on the soft-drinks menu.
The pizzas are Neapolitan style, with a thin, crisp base and pillowy crust. We ordered the Capricciosa (£8.50), the Vegetariana (£7), a side of Campania fries (£2.50) and rocket salad with parmesan (£4).
Our order took up every inch of our table space. The Capricciosa was a red-based pizza with a tomato sauce I found rich and slightly sweet. Topped with smoky ham, bitter black olives, thin salami, basil, mushrooms and blobs of melted mozzarella, I instantly regretted choosing a pizza with so many toppings. The thin base almost buckled under the weight, and the flavours became muddled. The crust was, as predicted, light and soft – I’m dying to go back and choose a simpler pizza.
The white Vegetariana, with sticky, wood-roasted peppers, mushrooms and olives was – in contrast – faultless. With the right amount of toppings and flavour, this caused serious food envy across our table.
We needn’t have ordered the fries, gorgeous as they were – piping hot, crisp and tossed with rosemary and sea salt – because the pizza was more than enough. The rocket salad gave a bit of balance and greenery to the meal.
With no room for dessert (although I’m told the lemon custard tart is to die for) and leftover pizza slices tucked away in a takeaway box, we vowed to return to Fatto a Mano. Stylish and cool, it serves excellent pizza with a focus on pleasing customer service – what a great addition to London Road.
Fatto a Mano – 77 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4JF 01273 600621
Featured image by Emma Gutteridge.