Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dinner | Frankies 570 Spuntino

Last Friday, Marcus and I met up with three of our friends (Keri, Jill, and Andrew) for a bite over at Frankies Spuntino, its West Village location (called Frankies 570 Spuntino). I got the recommendation from the trusty guys over at Immaculate Infatuation, who have never failed me for quick restaurant ideas.

During 2004, the first Frankies Spuntino opened in Carroll Gardens of Brooklyn, located at an old building that used to be home to an Italian social club. Its co-founders, Chef Frank Castronovo and Chef Frank Falcinelli, grew up together as friends and neighbors in Queens. At the time, both chefs and local residents at the time, who sought a distinct vision for it -- "a comfortable dining space, serving seasonally-inspired Italian fare that they themselves would enjoy on a frequent basis" as well as "a unique restaurant that would embody the sum of their travels, food philosophies, and experiences."

The word spuntino is essentially Italian for "snack" but can alsom mean "an informal meal" as well as "a casual Italian eatery" -- in other words, all that embodies the spirit of Frankies. Love that name! Additionally, the menu at Frankies aims to "offer deceptively simple fare -- dishes prepared with the freshest possible ingredients and a high level of attention" which is something I will have to wholeheartedly agree with after our meal there!

First up was a Frankies "Classic" -- the meatballs with pine nuts and raisins. Just like the restaurant's mission, these were deceptively simple yet incredibly delicious. You MUST order these if you pay a visit to Frankies Spuntino -- there is so much going on here than meets the eye. The meatballs were juicy and flavorful while the sauce was a whole other animal on its own. The sauce worked its wonder as the meatballs treaded lightly through it, creating an amazing combination as a starter dish. The pine nuts and raisins were a nice twist to a traditional tomato sauce that is just chunky from the containing plump tomatoes.

An actual recommendation from the II guys, I went with the cavatelli with Faicco's hot sausage and browned sage butter. Again, I admired the simplicity of this dish while it yielded complex flavors from the light sage butter and the spices from the sausage. Just goes to show how basic ingredients can go along way without gimmicks and frills!

Marcus and Keri each had the squid ink reginetti with seafood fra diavolo, which included shrimp and scallops. Reginetti is a lasagna-like pasta with a rippled edge, and the squid ink infused in it added quite the dramatic effect -- both visually and taste-wise. The fra diavolo sauce had a great spicy kick that soaked right into the seafood. Very well executed pasta -- original, too! Would definitely go back just for this!

Jill had the braised octopus with dandelion greens and Castelvetrano vinaigrette. From what I recall, Jill enjoyed this very much -- definitely the healthiest option out of all of us! Hehe :P besides, anywhere there's octopus -- I'm there!

Andrew went with the tagliatelli and mushrooms with mascarpone and thyme. Tagliatelli is a ribbon-like pasta (in fact, the root tagliare means "to cut" in Italian), and it wove wonders through this creamy pasta course, which testifies to the restaurant's conviction with the "less is more" credo. Another pasta for which I'm dying to go back to Frankies!

For dessert, Keri had the classic vanilla bean crème brûlée. From what I recall, Keri had no complaints about this -- very simple and delicious!

Jill had the ricotta cheesecake which was incredibly fluffy (I mean, look at it!). Talk about traditional Italian pastry -- you've got it right here!

I went the really basic route of having a scoop of fresh raspberry sorbet. This was probably the freshest sorbet I've ever tasted -- it felt like I was truly biting into a market basket of brightly fuchsia, chilled raspberries. There was definitely no added sugar to this, bringing a classic dessert such as sorbet back to basics.
Findings: I enjoyed our little dinner out with our friends at Frankies 570 Spuntino. The atmosphere was energetic, and the crowds humbled in response. The food and cuisine at Frankies that initially seemed almost too simple and basic -- kind of like the way you may feel when stumbling upon a Vera Wang wedding gown for the first time on a measly, singular hanger -- continued to wow me throughout the course of our casual dinner (to continue my metaphor -- seeing the stunningly simply designed gown on the bride herself). I was utterly captivated by how well-composed these dishes were without being overembellished or overdone. They were refined comfort foods -- ones that are redolent of an Italian grandmother spending all day whipping it up in her rustic kitchen. The dishes here certainly showcase each and every ingredient used -- each ingredient has a specific part to play in the role of successfully executing a flavorful course. Plus, the prices are easy on the wallet -- always a good thing to have! Definitely going to be back to check off all of those pasta dishes off my "to eat" list!

Price point: $13 for the starter, $14-18 for each pasta, $5-8 for each dessert.

--March 30, 2012

Frankies 570 Spuntino
570 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014

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