We returned from Belize (sigh) and were met with busy schedules and holiday madness so I have been slow to get back on the blog bandwagon. Belize was wonderful – one of our favorite vacations. I will post some pictures from the trip soon. Should you find yourself in Ambergris Caye, grab dinner at Elvi’s Kitchen and breakfast at Estel’s Dine By the Sea (where you can sample a Belizean breakfast staple, fry jack, their version of the beignet…and an aggressive way to start to the day). Marie Sharp’s products are sold all over the country – she makes delicious sauces, jams and jellies, and amazing plantain chips (yep, I used the word amazing to describe plantain chips).
The inevitable result of dragging your feet on writing posts is that someone beats you to the punch. In this case, Frank Bruni beat me to the punch on sharing his thoughts on Frankies 17 Spuntino. Recall that I mentioned my intention to post on Frankies before Bruni’s article came out (I don’t want there to be any confusion!). Here’s what I have to say about this gem of a restaurant….
My husband and I recently paid our second visit to Frankies. We were very impressed on our first visit, but it’s difficult to justify the trek to the Lower East Side, even for Frankies. We arrived at Frankies at 8:15 on a Saturday night. We knew that the restaurant does not take reservations and were anticipating a wait, but I was a little shocked when we were told that the wait would be 90 minutes!? The host explained that this was the worst-case scenario and that one or two of the tables ahead of us might drop off. The kind people at Frankies are happy to take your number and have you wait at one of the many watering holes near the restaurant, but we decided to stick it out at the tiny bar at the back of the restaurant.
The bartender was extremely gracious and happy to pour samples of the wines that we were considering – our favorite was the Montepulciano, available by the glass and the carafe. We started with crostini – we particularly liked avocado with pesto and cremini mushroom with truffle oil. The bartender also provided bread (made at Grandaisy – wonderful!) and Frankies’ delicious olive oil. And then we waited and waited…and waited. Sure enough, the worst-case scenario played out and we stood (there are no chairs) at the bar for 90 minutes. What made the wait bearable (almost pleasant) was that the host proactively provided us with regular and earnest updates on how the wait was shaping up. Typically when waiting for a table, you have to beg the host/hostess for updates and then you receive a vague and noncommittal answer.
When we were finally seated, we ordered the butternut squash soup, meatballs, and cavatelli with hot sausage and browned sage butter. All fabulous. I can’t provide you with details since we had consumed a lot of Montepulciano by the time we sat down. What makes dining at Frankies even more divine is that it’s cheap, cheap, cheap – the most expensive item that we ordered was the cavatelli at $15. When our bill arrived, the restaurant has comped the crostini and wine that we had at the bar because we had to wait so long. Given that we were told that the wait could be 90 minutes and that we were provided with continual updates, the gesture was completely unnecessary, but much appreciated. All around, a great dining experience – A for food, A+ for value and A++ for service.
Two tidbits that we picked up…Frankies is expanding in to the space next door so, hopefully, the wait times will not be as long once that happens (note that Frank Bruni did not uncover this information!) and Frankies delivers, which is really unusual for a restaurant with such a tiny kitchen. The delivery option makes me feel a rare twinge of jealousy toward people who live on the Lower East Side. As for us Upper West Siders, I am convinced that Frankies is worth the trek.