Congratulations Franny's for your amazing 2 star review in the NY Times. You deserve it. Your pizza deserves it. I miss you dearly.
I remember my first trip to you, Franny's. My bill ended up being $140 (all pizza except 2 cocktails) and I didn't even blink. Living a block away from you may have broke our bank but it gave our tummy's the best presents of yummy pizza and delicious small plates ever. The chef's widow and her chef miss you. Hell even the boy appreciated how amazing you are.
Another was their ZIP code: many lived near Franny’s, which is in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, and you know how Brooklyn boosters can be about their restaurants. Football fans who show up on sub-zero days with bare chests and painted faces have more perspective.
And it was hard to fathom their passion when they had such difficulty making the food sound special.
What, you’d ask, did this mecca for the modern epicure serve?
Crostini, they’d say. (Yawn.) And cured meats. (How transgressive!) Salads, too. (Heart palpitations commence.) And, and, and ... pizza.
So was Franny’s essentially a glorified pizza parlor? For those outside Brooklyn, did it really warrant a water crossing?
To the first question the answer is no; to the second, an emphatic yes.
Other restaurants have honorable pies, admirable lettuces or noteworthy salumi. But take it from a cranky Franny’s doubter, now a besotted Franny’s believer: not many do all three with as much joy and distinction as Franny’s.
Besides which, Franny’s does more. In June it reinstated pasta dishes on its menu. A few had been there in the beginning but were quickly jettisoned, because Franny’s chef, Andrew Feinberg, didn’t think he’d mastered them.
Now his kitchen has new equipment, while he has new confidence. So it’s pasta once again, and the rigatoncini with peppery pork sausage and sweet cipollini onions will have you hoping it’s pasta forever.
The lengthened menu makes Franny’s feel more fully formed, though you could subtract the pasta and still be left with plenty to savor and celebrate. Even in this era of Greenmarket reverence and food-miles shame, not many restaurants put as high a premium on seasonality and freshness as Franny’s does.
Artisanal pizza may be all the rage, but it’s the rare pizzaiolo who spreads dough thin enough and gets a brick oven hot enough to produce the gorgeous blisters like those on Franny’s best pies. And the restaurant’s soppressata has a suppleness that would make Armandino Batali blush.
Franny’s simplicity is deceptive. The restaurant finds transcendence in dishes and genres that wouldn’t seem to yield so readily to invention or open the door to so much pleasure.
For a Franny’s crostino no mere caponata will do. The crostino I had on a recent night was topped with porky, fatty pancetta — cured in the basement, along with the soppressata — and a house-made peach butter that simultaneously amplified the meat’s richness and provided some sweet relief from it.
A clam pizza at Franny’s isn’t one of those clumsy pies studded with shells that force you to embark on an odyssey of deconstruction and reconstruction.
The clams have already been liberated and placed on a thick amalgam of clam juice and cream — a doubly clammy whammy. If you ever loved a bivalve, you owe yourself this romance.
Mr. Feinberg owns Franny’s with his wife, Francine Stephens, for whom the restaurant is named. And although Franny’s has plenty of polish — a sophisticated Italian wine list, a manicured garden out back, a long mirrored brick wall more urban-chic than rustic — it retains a certain mom and pop soul, though the mom and pop in this version are notably young and idealistic.
Ms. Stephens is 35, Mr. Feinberg is 32, and they have a year-old daughter, with a sibling en route. The couple clearly want Franny’s to be an open-hearted, accessible place, and to that end there’s not a menu item over $17. And the restaurant doesn’t take reservations.
This policy creates predictable chaos, but it also seems to encourage a diverse crowd: families with small children early in the evening, tattooed hipsters later on. They can drop by on a whim and have the same chance at a table as anyone else.
Franny’s has its vanity. Turn over the menu and you’ll learn the provenance of not only the restaurant’s organic ingredients but its conservation-oriented energy supply (“35% New Wind and 65% Small Hydroelectric”).
I didn’t need to be told in writing that milk from Evans’ Farmhouse Creamery is “rich and creamy just like Mother Nature intended before homogenization.” I could taste its splendor in the fantastic fior di latte gelato on Franny’s brief list of desserts.
Several of those desserts — the cannoli, the chocolate sorbet — are underwhelming, as are a few of the dishes on the menu’s “small plates” and “plates” sections, where the crostini are found and the salads predominate. Although I loved the sulfur beans and salsa verde with wood-roasted octopus, the octopus itself could have been more tender.
You may not even encounter this dish. Franny’s menu seems to change almost hourly, reflecting the real value Mr. Feinberg and his chef de cuisine, Joshua McFadden, place on using the best ingredients they can rustle up at a given moment.
Wood-roasted eggplant replaces raw zucchini in a salad with pine nuts, purple onion and mint. Shell beans arrive just as wax beans depart.
Mr. McFadden arrived this year, having worked at Franny’s in the early days and then left for other restaurants, including Momofuku Ssam Bar and Lupa. Ms. Stephens and Mr. Feinberg said Mr. McFadden’s experience at the latter restaurant is partly why Franny’s can now do pasta right.
Right, but not flawlessly. A pork ragù in one dish was slightly gummy, and the restaurant’s apparent determination not to overcook noodles leads to undercooking them at times.
But the carbonara sauce on top of al dente bucatini was almost ideal, neither stinting on eggy richness nor turning the bucatini into a gluey mess. Equally on target was the saltiness of pasta alla chitarra with butter and bottarga.
Franny’s earliest supporters weren’t impulsive. They were prescient, and they’re going to have to keep making room for more recruits to the religion.
295 Flatbush Avenue (Prospect Place), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; (718) 230-0221.
ATMOSPHERE A brick-walled room with an open kitchen and room for about 50 leads to a verdant warm-weather garden.
SOUND LEVEL Loud.
RECOMMENDED DISHES Soppressata; pork cheek and beef tongue terrine; vegetables with tonnato sauce; green, romano and wax beans with ricotta salata; eggplant with Parmesan; butter lettuces with radish and mint; rigatoncini; bucatini alla carbonara; chitarra with bottarga; olive oil and sea salt pizza; clam pizza; vanilla panna cotta; fior di latte gelato.
WINE LIST Italian and varied, most under $50. Some interesting house cocktails.
PRICE RANGE Appetizers and small plates, $6 to $16. Plates, pasta dishes and pizzas, $8 to $17. Desserts, $7 to $8.