Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza: Behind the scenes
As part of our ongoing 'Pioneers' series that looks to champion the doers, thinkers and makers behind the Northwest's burgeoning food and drink scene, we talk to the duo behind Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza, the eatery that has foodies flocking to Ancoats
Pizza. Once the food of peasants and now a staple of modern diets. Whether it’s comfort eating, festival bingeing or fine dining, pizza has found its way onto our menus.
Alas, not all calzones are created equal and our choices are often limited to paying over the odds for a half-decent slice in trendy bars, or eating the stodge they serve at the place that begins with D…
To make good pizza you have to live it, breathe it and be prepared to take on the endless pursuit for perfection – it’s the golf of food.
“We [in the UK] don’t make it very well because it’s nearly sent Jim insane trying to master it; other people can’t be arsed to put in that effort,” says Kate Wilson, who along with her partner, Jim Morgan, owns Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza – a shining example of the ongoing resurgence of Manchester’s Ancoats neighbourhood.
“It takes up too much of my life,” says Morgan. “Our pizza is nowhere near finished, which is why I’m losing my pizza sanity. I can make something that I don't think is up to scratch but then customers will tell me it’s the ‘best they’ve ever had’ – it’s a weird dynamic.”
Despite its now cult-like following, Rudy’s came from humble beginnings.
“We always knew we wanted to work together but we weren’t sure on what exactly,” Wilson explains. “When we were 20 we just started saving for ‘something’ and this was it.”
After years of home experimentation, Morgan attempted to take his pizza to a larger audience. “We did the street food thing and then nine months after that I worked at Honest Crust. It was such an amazing experience; I learned enough there to feel more confident about opening our own place.”
Rudy’s – named after their adorable dog – moved into a quiet area of the city centre, put one item of food on the menu and paid for no press. Presumably they’ve just been twiddling their thumbs? “It’s been overwhelming," says Wilson. "We never envisaged we’d have to turn people away because we’d run out of dough.”
Through word of mouth and respect from their peers, the two secured a place in the Sunday Times list of the top 25 pizza places in the UK after just six months of trading. “You can’t ask a normal chef to put pizza on the menu,” says Morgan. “An interest in pizza is not enough to make it well. It’s the skill of baking – I’m not a chef, I’m a baker.”
So, what makes Rudy’s pizzas so damn good? “Some people get freaked out when they see that the pizza base isn’t crispy, but to us this is the original and best form of pizza, purely because it’s so easy to digest.” Morgan isn’t lying: many customers tackle two 14” pizzas in one sitting, and they can do so without reaching for the Alka-Seltzer thanks to the time taken in preparing the dough.
“Intolerance to gluten comes from quickly made bread in supermarkets,” Morgan explains. “We try to explain to people about the slow bread movement and how, after a day or two, the glutens break down and give the dough a sugary flavour.”
Unsurprisingly, good Neapolitan pizza ingredients aren’t readily available in Manchester, but Rudy’s are insistent on using only the very best.
“The flour comes from Naples and for us it’s the only flour to use,” says Morgan. “The tomatoes aren’t anything mysterious: they’re San Marzano and you can buy a tin from our expanding deli section.” While importing Italy’s finest seems relatively simple, the cheese is still a sticky issue. “The mozzarella stresses me out. We’re thinking about making our own but we’re still putting the feelers out to see how good a product we can create in-house.”
Rudy’s try to keep toppings minimal and let the dough speak for itself, but as Wilson explains, there have to be some compromises: “If you look at some of our early pictures there was even less cheese on the pizza, and that’s what it’s like in Naples, but we’ve had to adapt that slightly for Manchester’s palates.”
Despite being one of only a few businesses open in the area, they have high expectations for the future of Ancoats. “It’s in the centre but it also feels like a suburban area; come the summer, this square will come into its own.”
In just six months, Rudy’s dedication to the dough has seen them rightfully garner a name as one of the best spots for a quality, informal dining experience in Manchester, and as Ancoats welcomes new businesses, they can only see the area go from strength to strength. “We don’t worry about anything on the other side of Great Ancoats Street.” And why would they?