At Frankies Brooklyn flagship, the tiny menu offers deeply satisfying renditions of classic red-sauce fare.
Outside there’s a garden for lambrusco and cold cuts; inside it smells like brown butter and sage. That’s where you want pork braciola. It’s just down Court Street from where Al Capone was married, in Carroll Gardens.
Now the owners have expanded to Manhattan, first in the East Village and now with Frankies 570 in the West Village.
Stick with Carroll Gardens.
Our pork was grilled into an arid, mealy chew. Lentil soup, a high point in Brooklyn, was nondescript, which was better than the rank rabbit liver terrine.
For the privilege of eating such food, the host quoted a 90-minute wait and promised to ring us when a table was ready (and then forgot to call).
Frankies in the Village has the longest, most ambitious menu of the three. Wood tables and low ceilings keep decibels at ear piercing levels.
Low lighting makes reading the menu tough and identifying what’s on the plate a challenge.
Are those sweetbreads or slabs of bacon? No one could hear the waiter, so it’s anybody’s guess.
Turned out to be both, a shockingly flavorful dish of smoke, swine and silk.
If this were all run by a promising new chef on a shoestring budget, we might forgive the inconsistency. But owners Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo have been at it since 2004, and this Hudson Street venue feels less like a neighborhood hangout than a cash machine built for expansion.
Cavatelli with spicy sausage is a warm salad of pasta and pork with no discernable sauce tying things together. Sweet gnocchi dumplings beg for puckery tomatoes to balance things out; here they get a cloying, sugary gravy.
Creamy polenta lacks corn essence; raw Brussels sprouts are shredded like iceberg lettuce and have about the same watery flavor.
Rare ribeye, purposely served cold, is slathered with so much salt, rosemary and olive oil it’s hard to tell it’s beef. Eggplant parmesan is an amorphous glob.
There is some good news. Any appetizer with octopus or squid is decent enough. A glass of aromatic Muller Thurgau ($13) perfectly suits a plate of arctic char crudo topped with pickled peppers. Follow that with thinly sliced cold cuts and briny anchovy crostini.
For pasta, order the killer linguine with almond pesto, or succulent short rib ravioli.
Braciola -- pork shoulder and provolone simmered in tomatoes -- is brilliant in Brooklyn, unreliable here: sometimes addictive and fall-apart tender, sometimes dry with a thin, insipid sauce.
The good wine list offers plenty of choices under $50. A cabernet blend by the quartino ($10) is served from the tap and chilled, a laid-back approach for the laid-back fare. A $60 De Forville Barbaresco is your go-to bottle of red because it contains all the acid your food lacks.
Finish with hazelnut chocolate panna cotta or prunes and mascarpone; avoid the dry cheesecake and forgettable tiramisu. Don’t tell Al Capone.
The Bloomberg Questions
Price: Most dishes $22 or under.
Sound Level: Easily over 80 decibels.
Date Place: Too loud.
Inside Tip: Try the Marked Man, tequila, rye and vermouth, for you aperitif.
Special feature: Decent meatball hero.
Will I be back? To the Brooklyn flagship.
Frankies 570 is at 570 Hudson St. Information: +1-212-924-0818; http://www.frankiesspuntino.com.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse sotto voce. 56 to 60: Speak up, please. 61 to 65: Lean in to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: Heads turn because you’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)