ONCE upon a time when fish and chips was unanimously the nation’s favourite fast food Harry Ramsden’s was founded in a wooden hut north of Leeds. Within three years canny Harry had moved into a new premises, complete with fitted carpets, oak panelled walls and chandeliers.
For decades after charabancs piled into the car park of the nation’s most famous chippie as it changed owners several times until finally 30 years ago the latest transformed it into a major brand with premises across the country and beyond. Standards maintained? No way. It’s the downward spiral of so many rapid expansions. Witness Jamie’s Italian empire.
So ToM was initially all a tremble when we heard that a huge slice of Ancoats indie pioneer Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza had been slapped up by Mission Mars. The owners of Albert’s Schloss, planned to roll it out as a chain, starting with a Mark II in the old Army Careers Office next to the Schloss on Peter Street.
Reassurance came from our love for the whole Albert’s offering and the fact that Rudy’s founders Jim Morgan and Kate Wilson would be hands-on consulting. They founded the Cotton Street original in 2015, since when it has been listed among the best pizzerias in the world by international guidebook Where To Eat Pizza.
That and huge local critical and word of mouth acclaim is why Mission Mars landed on it. The key question as we paid a visit to this first of many new sites – in this larger theatre is the pizza still a star?
Absolutely… and the rest of the offering. There’s been no tampering with the base made with very strong 00 flour left to rest and rise for 24 hours and the quality of topping ingredients hasn’t altered either. There’s still the intense Sam Marzano tomato sauce, the freshest of buffalo mozzarella and fior di latte, basil of an intensity not found in the supermarket tubs. And above all, the food and drinks menu is still brilliantly priced.
To start we shared a Campana – a plate of that mozzarella with prosciutto crudo, served with pungent, proper wild rocket and radicchio and toasted house sourdough (£7.90).
It went brilliantly with a £4 schooner of Rudy’s Pale Draught, made specially for them by Runaway Brewery, whose stronger beers dominate the can range.
With our selection of pizzas – Margherita, Salame, Tarantina and Calabrese – it had to be a vibrant Puglian red, Cantine Sampietrana Reserva (£6.80 a glass, £25 a bottle).
The Calabrese (£7.90) finally converted me to Nduja, that spicy Calabrian sausage that melts into the tomato topping, giving it a spicy but not coarse kick.
Currently there’s also a special on that comes highly recommended, its pumpkin base topped with fior di latte, coppa, rocket and walnuts (below).
The interior, built around an imported tiled, wood-burning pizza oven, is a vast improvement on the awkward space in Cotton Street. More than twice as many covers I’d guess, with a shiny industrial chic look and a real buzz. With a no booking policy that means quite a wait for a table. Just like the original Rudy’s really.
Rudy’s Pizza, Petersfield House, Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5QJ. 07590 964181.