Old school Italian dining at Franco’s

Franco’s is a family run Italian restaurant situated in Parkview. You guys know the drill about family run places: shabby chic decor with specials written on chalkboards and a horde of regular customers. The area and centre which the restaurant is situated in seems dodgy and certainly doesn’t set the mood. The decor is done in an aggressive colour of red which is not ideal for dining in Spring or Summer. You definitely need to make a booking as this little restaurant fills up especially on the weekends. It is a popular spot for regulars to have a romantic dinner or for big family outings/celebrations.

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I first visited Franco’s two years ago. We booked late on the day so we were given a table that was situated in the outside mall section that does not feel as if you are in the restaurant. This resulted in a very dire ambience to our meal. I didn’t like the seating arrangement on my second visit either. We were seated in a balcony enclosed section that is one step higher than the surrounding area. Another table was situated right next to ours with only a wooden balcony plank separating us. We were close enough to touch the other patrons as well as hear their conversation. It became extremely awkward when they started fighting and crying at such close proximity ruining our dinner as well. The restaurant obviously can’t be blamed for fighting couples but perhaps the seating and tables shouldn’t be directly next to each other.

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I tried the Tortellini alla Cacciatora which is rings of pasta stuffed with chicken prepared in a creamy tomato mushroom and garlic sauce. The pasta was doughy and I could not taste the chicken however the sauce was extremely delicious. You could have fed me bowls of that sauce, it was that good. The prices were very reasonable back then – main meal, dessert and drink came to 100 bucks.

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On my second visit we had the magherita pizza (R50). This pizza had no redeeming qualities. The cheese used formed a thick layer, resulting in a very chewy, greasy, cheesy pizza. Just looking at the pictures again makes my arteries clog up. It was overall a heavy junk pizza. This is probably because the type and quality of cheese used was not good. We noticed that Franco’s sell pizzas as takeaways and that the pizza size seemed to be bigger than the one we ate. The pizzas on the menu however can only be ordered in one size. Pizza takeaways are popular on a Friday night and we saw countless boxes go out.

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I decided on having the same mains as the last time to provide a representative and comparable review. Unfortunately the sauce was sour as a result of the wine not being cooked off fully. The pasta was cooked much better and I could taste the resemblance of stuffed chicken. I think the description of the dish is misleading as it is not a meaty chicken filled pasta but rather shredded chicken that you can barely taste. The chicken used is simply roast chicken which is one of my least favourite chicken dishes. There is no flavour in blandly roasted unflavoured chicken.

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The mussel pasta prepared in a tomato sauce was not a pleasant tasting dish and I would not recommend it.

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The garlic and chilli provided had an ominous look to it whilst Parmesan seems to not be a staple condiment. They were neither good quality or great tasting. This is disappointing as a good chilli or garlic can take a meh dish to wow by adding some delicious flavour. What I did like was the owner checking up on us, seeing plenty of regular customers especially the golden oldies who clearly love the place and the no corkage policy on the wine.

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The service was average. We got served hot soda water which is plain frustrating. Serving a cold drink is not something difficult to get right. Our one pizza, two pasta mains and two drinks came to over R300. Given the average tasting food and prices that are on par with other restaurants I would give it a skip. I didn’t feel that I was offered anything authentically Italian about the experience. We really do have an abundance of Italian restaurants to pick from in Johannesburg and this is not one I recommend you pick. I really did want to like their food which is why I gave this place a second shot. The super cheap prices might have lured me back initially but since that is not the case anymore (rightly so that businesses should be making money), I feel no reason to go back. I will probably get attacked again about my opinion but it doesn’t really matter what I say. Being a family run restaurant they will always have their regulars. I, on the other hand will prefer yummy food and lovely ambience elsewhere.

Click: http://francoforleo.co.za
Ring: (011) 646 5449
Hop: 54 Tyrone Avenue, Parkview

Pasta & Pizza,
CG

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