Returning to Roots at Frankies 457 Spuntino
Frankies 457 Spuntino often gets labeled Italian-American home cooking and the Village Voice went so far as to say its best attribute is that it "feels like it belongs" in the Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens. Honestly, who are food reviewers to say what fits in?
Having been raised mostly on Italian-American food, I can say to that "yes and no." To me Frankies 457 is refined home cooking and there's nothing wrong with that. Don't expect red-checkered tablecloths and a pile of spaghetti and meatballs alla Disney's "Lady and the Tramp." The meatballs here are dotted with sweet raisins. The restaurant is sleekly decorated with exposed brick walls and lights that emit a warm glow strangely leading one of my dinner companions to feel as if he were eating down South. Beyond the back garden is another room for eating offering a sense of discovery.
The chef's plate of cured meats contained perhaps the most ethereal proscuitto I've had. The paper thinness and feathery lightness were refreshing after so many bad slices that end up with hard edges and little fat. The pork braciola rested in a silky bath of irresistable tomato sauce. The hot sausage and sage brown butter played perfectly off each other in the homemade cavatelli pasta dish and the roast loin of pork with rapini and pine nut polenta was delicious. The meat fell right off the bone. Having had so many bastardized versions of Tira Mi Su (this was the dessert of the 1980s), I figured this was the place to revisit it and I was not disappointed.
Returning to the roots of Italian cooking with such a refined and gloriously simple approach is a joy. It brings back childhood memories while appealling to a more world-weary palate. I for one am looking forward to returning to taste Frankies' take on other classics like sausage and peppers, gnocchi and bufala mozzarella with arugula.
Frankies 457 Spuntino is located at 457 Court Street, 718-403-0033, and Frankies 17 is located at 17 Clinton Street in Manhattan, 212-253-2303.