Thursday, September 3, 2009

What’s in a name?

As much as I love to cook at home I find dining out equally as enjoyable. Sharing food with friends and family at the communal table is comforting and rewarding.

Our hip Park Slope friends invited us to meet them at Franny’s on Flatbush Ave for dinner. The restaurant was unfamiliar to me – and being somewhat all things food snobbish – my initial reaction to the restaurant’s name conjured up unflattering images.

We arrived a little early and the line of patrons that ran outside the door surprised me, especially for a Monday night! We edged our way in to get our name on the ubiquitous list. The airy space was filled with gorgeous scents of garlic, basil, tomatoes and baking bread. Looking at the menu the fare is simple, Italian, pizza, a few pastas, uncomplicated appetizers and salumi. The concise menu reminded me of the few days I spent in Rome and Florence where unadorned cafes served some of the best food I’ve ever had.

Back out on the sidewalk, waiting for Beaux and MaryKathryn to arrive, Marc whispered to me and told me that Maggie Gyllenhaal was also waiting for a table with her husband, actor Peter Saarsgard and their young daughter. Fellow Brooklynites, I figured, just out for a casual dinner with their friends – just like us. Like good stalwart New Yorkers no one flinched at the celebrity sightings and it was business as usual.

With the arrival of our friends, we immediately ordered cocktails, wines and some food to start. The Crostino of wood-roasted pancetta and herb butter and the Fried eggplant with cherry tomato and Parmigiano Reggiano that arrived from the open kitchen were deceptively simple, constructed of just a few ingredients. The crostino of Italian bacon and melted herb butter on thickly grilled bread was rustic and savory.

We choose the Rigotonicini with pork sausage, rapini and Provolone piccante and a brick oven pizza made with Buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, red pepper and yes, more sausage. The pizza had that wonderful crispy char from baking on hot stone in the oven. It reminded me of the pizza I had in Rome, so I closed my eyes and imagined hearing Vespas sputtering around cobble-stoned streets. The pasta was perfect, really al dente the way I like it and the wilted rapini and piquant sauce flavored with sharp Provolone were enticing.

It just proves that the best quality ingredients in the right hands can create a soul satisfying experience. As for the name…I’d forgotten about those unflattering images after sharing a bottle of complex, earthy Sicilian wine.

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