Rudy’s Pizza is humble restaurant in the heart of Little Italy, Manchester’s Naples. The menu is brief, the desert menu even shorter, but the food is anything but basic.
A brief history
In the late 19th Century, Manchester experienced an influx of Italian families, escaping political and economic struggles in both the North and South of Italy. To begin with, the community was pretty much self-contained. Many families setting up shop as ice cream makers and vendors. Selling their goods from horse-drawn carts, the Italian ice cream makers were pioneers in their industry and well-known for it. World War II saw an almost complete ban on ice cream due to sugar rationing. Italians in England also faced persecution as a result Italy’s decision to back Germany.
After the War
In the years that followed World War II, the ice cream industry saw success. With the coming of the ‘baby boomers’ came a demand for sweet treats. Manchester’s Little Italy began to rebuild itself. As processes became more mechanised and products mass produced, many ice cream makers bought into bigger companies such as Walls. For others, however, success was short-lived and their businesses went under. The community continued to prosper, though. By the 1970s, Italians in Manchester were regularly marrying into the wider community and cultural diversity was flourishing.
To this day, whilst the general area is undergoing much regeneration, you can still sense the hustle and bustle of the lively Italian community. The cobbled streets, the sound of ice cream carts, Italian mothers standing on the streets chatting as their children played. Rudy’s Pizza is keeping the culture alive.
Classic taste, with an urban design
Whilst the food may be traditional, the interior is a perfect modern. Bare concrete walls, plywood surfaces, with steel and copper accents. There is something pleasantly quaint about the contrast of an age-old tradition of making Neapolitan pizza against such a modern, minimalist backdrop.
The restaurant is split in two. The front appears small and cosy with a larger seating area and bar to the rear. On the walls hang the retired peels from years past, battered and bruised from hundreds of pizzas gratefully devoured. The tables are adorned with simple floral arrangements and pillar candles, making it perfect for lunch with a friend. Or a casual date.
A taste of Naples
Rudy’s Pizza essentially serve one thing: good, traditional Neapolitan pizza. Their dough is proved overnight, shaped tenderly by hand, adorned with home-made sauce, cheese and toppings; and baked in a wood-fired pizza oven. Watching the Italian staff shape and make the pizzas is a really treat. From start to finish, the whole thing takes minutes. Pizza after pizza goes in to the oven and is removed: slight charred, bubbling, and calling to be eaten.
The dough is light and airy. The tomato sauce is simple, showing off the taste of the tomatoes. Quality ingredients top each pie, and this is where each pizza truly stands out from the next. From ‘nduja to tuna, burrata to fior de latte, serano to prosciutto: there’s something for everyone. Don’t fancy anything on the usual menu? That’s fine, check out the seasonal specials!
Then comes dessert. The dessert menu is limited but truly delicious (and cheap!) I would highly recommend tiramisu (an Italian classic). The real star, though, is the hazelnut tartufo (a hazelnut ice cream, rolled in caramelised hazelnuts, with a chocolate centre).
The menu is large enough that you have choices but not so large that the focus on quality is compromised. Prices are moderate and portions are decent. My only small criticism is that there are not many sides. So, if you are feeling particularly gluttonous then you may need to order two desserts!
Unfortunately, you cannot book in advance and, at weekends, waiting times can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours. On the plus side, you can turn up and give your name and telephone number and they text you five minutes before your table is due to be ready. There are some great bars in the square where Rudy’s Pizza is situated. Plenty of places to try whilst you wait for your table.
On the plus side, a second location has recently opened on Peter Street. They also have a location in Liverpool, with one in Birmingham to be announced.
Worth a try, if you’re in the area and looking for a classic, well-made pizza.