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A Night at Franco’s

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May 26, 2014 / Italian / By
Katie Schenk

When I first started travelling, I was desperate to get away from home.  Not that I hated it, only that I was certain there was more out there.  I’d walk around Sydney Harbour and think about how different it was from my home in Cleveland.  Then, when I returned home after such a long time way, I’d tell people how brilliant and different Australia was.  I implied that it was better, and probably felt that way too.  But it hurt people to hear it, so I stopped saying it.

Over the years, I learned to internalise my travels because, for the most part, people were uncomfortable with the amount of travelling I’d done – or perhaps it was my strong opinions that burn like chilli heat as soon as I’d peppered them around the conversation.  Travelling to new places became my own private drug; something that was just mine – no matter who shared the experience with me.

Those days at Sydney Harbour are now half a lifetime away, quite literally.  I was 18 then, and 36 now – and plenty has changed.  Living in South Africa, so far from my family in Cleveland and my anticipated home in Switzerland, my views have transformed entirely.  Now, I spend my days desperately seeking out places that feel like home. 

And where should you always look for home in a country that’s not yours?  Wherever the locals go.  In the leafy suburb of Parkview in Johannesburg, that’s Franco’s Pizzeria.  (If you’re in the area, it’s between the Zoo and the Parkview Golf Course.)

Franco’s is a family run restaurant, and even the servers that aren’t family have been there for more than 20 years – and that’s saying something no matter where you are in the world.  But, it’s not just the family that owns it; all the local children know and love Franco’s because that’s where they go for family dinners, birthdays and when their families come in from out of town.  Certainly I head to Franco’s for all of these occasions.  And one year, when I was too busy to prepare my annual Thanksgiving feast, I booked a table at Franco’s; they responded by adding a lovely butternut pasta to their specials board for us.

Locally, Franco’s is known as “Parkview’s dining room”; and it certainly feels like it too.  The employees know all the locals – their names, their children’s names, where they’re from and what they do for a living.  Franco and his family always look happy to see their customers, calling each one by name as they enter.  Not only do they know my name, they know who I know too.  It’s home, with the smell of pizza and the somewhat hideous red walls. 

All this would be enough to draw me in regularly (which is somewhere between three times a week to once a month), but then there’s the food.

The menu may not look like much, and the specials boards dotted around the dining room offer only a half dozen more options, but the food at Franco’s is sensational.  The pizzas are lovingly crafted in one corner of the dining room, filling the air with the smell of baking bread and melting cheese.  The meat and seafood dishes are generously proportioned, and always cooked exactly the way you order them.  (Incidentally, I tried the Steak Pizzaiola for the first time recently and was almost floored by how delicious it was.)

But, it’s the pastas that set my taste buds alight, that sometimes beg me to book a table if I can (and order a take away if it’s too late in the game to get one).  Traditionally, I order the Tortellini alla Cacciatora which has become a staple in my life.  Of course, when they have it as a special, the Pork Ragu is not to be missed.  But then again, absolutely everything Franco’s serves is scrumptious – including the starters, the desserts, and even Franco’s handcrafted Limoncello (when he’s got enough to share).  Top all this off with the fact that you can still bring in a bottle of wine without paying a corkage fee, and every bit of your body will be swathed in happiness. 

Does it sound like home to you?  Because that’s what it feels like to me.  Whether you’re in the area, or you’re planning a visit, make sure you swing over to Franco’s.  Just be sure to make a booking, because you won’t get a table at dinner time if you don’t.  You can order to take away, of course, but then you’d miss the joking, the laughter and the love of an extended Joburg family.


Franco's Pizzeria and Trattoria

Country: South Africa

Province/State: Gauteng

City: Parkview

Address: 54 Tyrone Avenue

Zip/Post Code: 2193

Location Tips: Tyrone Avenue is nestled between Zoo Lake and the Parkview Golf Club

Phone: +27 11 646 5449

Website:http://www.francoforleo.c...

Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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