Monday, January 30, 2012


"Spuntino" means snack, and while the hearty portions at Frankie's are anything but snack-sized, they are every bit as soul-satisfying and appetite-sating as any snack ever even wished it could be.  It's the third of the franchise, but the Frankies, Castronovo and Falcinelli, have got their chops: they can spread themselves around without getting too thin.

You won't get thin on their food, either, but that's not to say it's heavy or gluttonous.  This is simple, rustic Italian food, plated generously and seasoned accordingly, but still refined.  Everybody raved over the shaved brussels sprouts salad, but frankly (pun intended) I thought it could use a little more salt.  It's still a healthy, virtuous salad, crucifers shaved thinly enough to render their raw state chewable, and studded with Castelrosso cheese, lemon and olive oil.  A spritz of Maldon would've made it exceptional.  The roasted vegetable salad bypasssed that traditional eggplant/zucchini/pepper plate in favor of a more seasonal melange of rapini, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and beets.  There's something for everyone, and everything was devoured.  A trio of (poorly photographed crostini consisted of avocado, ricotta and the best, a truffled cremini mushroom mountain that inspired hoarding tendencies.

Big plates are big, almost shareably so, if you can fend off those tendencies aforementioned.  You might want it all for yourself, even if something like the ruby red shrimp alla piastra arrives head-on with, like, seven twin siblings, hulking crustaceans simply seared and salted, with a sprinkle of minced herbs and olive oil.  You can taste the ocean... and see it in their eyes.  Moving down the face, pork cheeks swim in a rich, zesty sugo atop blissfully smooth pureed celery root.  The meat needs but the pressure of a fork to deconstruct into tender, ropey bites.  Handmade, love-created meatballs nestle into a hearty tomato sauce- not as Americans might serve as a topping for spaghetti, but in a well-deserved spotlight all their own.  Lots of things come in threes: the crostini, the cheeks, the meatballs.  Maybe it's so you could eat two (wholly sufficient) and take one home for lunch.  At any rate, the meatballs were smart to stand alone, as the one pasta we tried, tagliatelle with mushrooms,  was a bit mooshy and overcooked, although the cavatelli with Faicco's hot sausage and sage was text-book perfect.  Branzino might have been the best I've ever had: the fish firm of flesh and flavorful enough not to even need its equally tasty lentils and bright, tangy red onion marmalata.

I thought desserts might fall off a bit, but Frankie's is even superlative on the sweet side of things.  The only one I didn't like was the ricotta cheesecake; it was dry and spongey.  But my table of Italians kept beckoning it back to their side, so what do I know?  Well, I DO know that the red wine poached prunes with mascarpone- a most un-sexy sounding dessert, turned out to be THE most seductive thing at the table (aside from, perhaps, the devilishly handsome Fiorentino next to me).  These silky plums literally melted in your mouth, spiked with cinnamon and wine and nestled into a creamy bed of whipped mascarpone.  I would never have imagined a sensation like this possible coming from a prune.  Eliminate all affiliations you might harbor with SunSweet; these are of another universe.  The vanilla creme brulee was gorgeous, too.  Notably warm the rich, vanilla custard was, underneath its crisp crust of melted sugar, better than most I've ever had and maybe better than any.  Maxed out, I bypassed the chocolate tart, but it must've been great because all that was left of it was an empty plate as I began pushing my chair away from the table.

I read a few reviews online of Frankie's before arriving, and they seemed notably sour, for the most part.  Which I cannot fathom, given the food, service, and cozy, boisterous little space that makes up this third Frankie's.  Then again, why would you trust some anonymous Yelper?  Trust ME, instead.  Fiducia in me.... AND in the Italians.  They, and the Frankies, won't let you down.



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