Palermo faith: Franzina Trattoria

Brixton’s home to Sicilian dining, Franzina Trattoria, has left its cosy sea container in Pop Brixton after four years to move to a bigger “proper” restaurant just around the corner.

Run by Stefania Taormina and head chef Pietro Franz, Franzina, as any discerning local will tell you, serves up wholesome, authentic Sicilian dishes to go with a glass of wine and a chat. While Brixton welcomes Cattivo, and soon to arrive Maremma, Stefania and Pietro have brought their classic Sicilian dining, with quirky touches, to Coldharbour Lane. We popped in.

How did Franzina start out at Pop?
Four years ago, it was a case of being brave, getting the chance and having good luck. Pietro was already a chef, I was working as a pharmacist in food nutrition and alternative medicine. Friends would encourage us to develop our own concept and so I took a year off to see what we could do. London seemed open to something like us and then we found out about Pop Brixton. I quit my job for good, we met our sea container, and our journey began.

Did you grow up around cooking?
Pietro and I both grew up in families with a great passion for food. My grandfather was a chef, my mother is a chef. Food and the celebration of it was part of every day. Everyone gets involved. I think it is part of the DNA. We try to bring some of the great traditions of the friendly family trattoria to Franzina.

Why the change of premises?
Pop Brixton was where we were born and, despite the obvious challenges, we loved the sea container. I cried when we closed the door for the last time as it was like “my first child”. It was really difficult as we make all our own pasta and bread, sauces and desserts and you need room. And not everything you would like to cook is practical in that space. We only had 16 seats. Now we can operate on a bigger, better scale with the bigger kitchen and can welcome roughly three times more people. In the end we all have to grow up.

What defines Sicilian regional cuisine?
I always have this discussion with our customers. If you drive from the north to the south of Italy, you pass through so many different regional cuisines, in both food and wine, culture, language and cooking methods. In Sicily, it is heavily Mediterranean and, as it is close to North Africa, we have Lebanese and North African influences blended with our traditions of handmade pasta.

we love it as it is similar to our Mercato della Vucciria in the historic centre of Palermo, where everyone knows you – everyone says “Ciao”.

There is a great tradition for vegetables in Sicily while in northern Italy, the diet is more meaty. And fish is central, especially along the coast. Octopus, for example, you will find everywhere in Sicily as a street food – we have kept ours just as simple, chargrilled with lemon, oil and sea salt as a big dish to share. It is a very healthy diet.

How would you describe the menu?
The menu is faithful to when we were at Pop as we want to show the methods and the traditions of Sicily and we enjoy bringing our traditions to people who may not know Sicilian food. Aubergine, pesto, octopus and the chickpea fritters are all big favourites but we also grew up with the tradition of whatever was that day’s catch or what was in season in the market, so there are daily specials that change all the time depending on what we can find.

Do you use Brixton Market?
Of course! absolutely, but the market is also important to me as a connection to my home city Palermo. Pietro and I are there every day, especially for vegetables and seeing what the market has to offer. Meats, herbs, spices, whatever we can find. And we love it as it is similar to our Mercato della Vucciria in the historic centre of Palermo, where everyone knows you – everyone says “Ciao”.

You mention you like to work with ‘poor meats’, what does that mean?
We use high-quality meats across the menu, but Sicily was traditionally a poor country, which is why there is a lot of fish and vegetables in Sicilian food. People couldn’t afford the elite cuts of, for example, beef. So we take a pleasure in using the “cheaper” cuts and slow cooking techniques. Pietro also likes to add creative, sometimes quirky, touches to our dishes. These are often dishes from our grandmothers which didn’t always look “pretty’ so Pietro likes to be creative with the presentation while keeping the true simple essence of the dish.

395 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 7LQ | 07802 473444 | | @franzinatrattoria | @Franzpietro1