17 Clinton Street, New York NY 10009 (between Houston & Stanton St; map); 212-253-2303; frankiesspuntino.com
Veggie Options: 3 crostini, 8 salads, 1 soup, 3 pastas, 2 sandwiches
Cost: Appetizers $3.50-12, sandwiches $10.50, pastas $14-18, desserts $6.50-7
Frankies 17 of the Lower East Side and Frankies 457 in Brooklyn have both gotten a lot of Serious Eats love, and it's no surprise why. The casual Italian eatery puts out delicious food in an elegantly cozy atmosphere. (Besides, it was founded by two guys named Frank. Totally lovable.) That said, not every dish will have you enamored, which brings me to this revelation: many of their best dishes are vegetarian. So regardless of your degree of omnivoraciousness, a tasty meal can be had here by all.
I recommend skipping salad or soup in favor of the crostini ($3.50 each), which I implore you to go try immediately. While the creamy, gently seasoned avocado and pesto crostini are quite delightful, it's the ricotta that wows me every time. Light, fresh ricotta is drizzled with local honey and a grind or two of fresh black pepper in total savory-sweet perfection. I don't say this lightly: it's one of my all-time favorite bites in the city.
The Sweet Potato & Sage Ravioli in Parmesan Broth ($15) (which you can also DIY!) is one of their most popular dishes, and with very good reason. The perfectly thin, translucent ravioli are made with wonton wrappers instead of conventional pasta dough, which explains how these delicate pastas hold together so well. They swim in a light yet decadent parmesan broth, which is a delicious feat unto itself. I found myself sopping up the rich broth with bits of bread, lest I be caught slurping it straight from the bowl.
In honor of springtime, the House-made Linguini with Fava Beans, Garlic, Tomato, and Breadcrumbs ($18, pictured above) has recently returned to the menu. The tender fresh pasta is easily the highlight of the dish. The seemingly ordinary sauce is spiced up with red pepper flakes, and texture-wise, the crunchy sprinkling of breadcrumbs is a brilliant addition. It's rare to see a simple pasta dish this well thought-out. (Another recipe link!)
The House-made Gnocchi Marinara & Fresh Ricotta ($14) is a solid dish, though perhaps less memorably delicious. The little balls of potato have a pleasantly melt-in-your-mouth consistency, thankfully avoiding the pitfalls of many dense, rubbery gnocchi. The simple, clean, tomato sauce is accompanied by a dollop of that amazing ricotta and sprinkling of parmesean. No surprises, no complaints.
We finished off the meal with the Chocolate Tart ($6.50). It's quite dense, rich, and for what appeared to be a darker chocolate, still very sweet. A good gateway dessert for those that shy away from bitter dark chocolates.
Overall, the Frankies experience is reliably lovely, and vegetarians can do quite well here without missing a beat. Extra bonuses: 1) the staff are very pleasant 2) the Frankies Spuntino cookbook is nominated for a James Beard award 3) you can cook their dishes at home from said cookbook 4) you can buy their stellar olive oil for said cooking/eating/licking/whatever. And if all that weren't enough, it appears that their mascot bears a striking resemblance to our very own Dumpling. I think that pretty much seals the deal.
(TL;DR: Go get the Frankies ricotta crostini. It will blow your mind.)
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