Frankie's 457 is designed to be a local's kind of place, one that focuses on rustic Italian cooking, not flashy, over-the-top dishes. We visited their beautiful backyard, ideal for summer dining, to see how their vegetarian food stacked up.
A meal can begin with crostini at $4 each. On the left is the eggplant caponata, piled high on crusty bread. The caponata was bright with vinegar and refreshingly cold. Cremini mushroom and truffle oil was piled even higher, and was even tastier. The mushrooms were chopped into tiny, crunchy bits that were a pleasure to eat, and the truffle oil added a nice richness to the topping.
I also enjoyed the cold vegetable antipasti ($6.50 each). Roasted carrots are perfectly done, slightly soft but not mushy, and pleasantly sweet. Broccoli rabe was cooked to accentuate the bitterness of the greens, not neutralize it.
Entrées didn't fare as well: they're good, but not as special as the small plates. The homemade gnocchi marinara with fresh ricotta ($15) featured light, slightly chewy little gnocchi, and the fresh ricotta was a nice counterpoint to the acidic tomato sauce. But the dish lacked seasoning, and came off as lackluster.
Eggplant parmesan ($14) also arrived undersalted. The thin slices of eggplant were coated in a batter that was comprised mostly of egg, lending a unique touch to a classic dish. I also have to give the kitchen credit for making eggplant parm with actual parmesan, and not mozzarella. But again, the dish didn't add up: the tomato sauce was overwhelmingly tart and the rest was forgettably bland.
Despite the disappointments, dinner at Frankie's 457 was an undeniably good experience. While sitting in the backyard, which is strewn with flowering plants and grape vines, you can close your eyes and pretend you're in Italy. Stick to the small plates for best results.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.