John von Pamer
There are so many Italian cookbooks that get released every year, adding to the already formidable collections in bookstores, that it can be hard to figure out which ones are worthwhile (and worth the money, too). So why does Franny's: Simple. Seasonal. Italian. (Artisan Books, $35) matter?
Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg, a husband-and-wife team, together run a beloved Italian restaurant called, unsurprisingly, Franny's, in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. It's a fixture of one of the main thoroughfares that form the lifeblood of the community, a mostly residential neighborhood of picturesque brownstones set upon tree-lined streets, just like the ones that you see in the movies (the ones that make you say, "Oh, I'd love to live in New York, someday…"). Along these thoroughfares, there is an ever-growing presence of serious cheese and charcuterie shops, high-end coffee shops, craft beer bars, wacky ice cream shops, and restaurants that form an eclectic mix. And Franny's was one of the pioneers, opening at a time when the area was, well, not so pretty.
Many people come to New York for the first time and put the New York slice, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park at the top of their list (though, not necessarily in that order). And then, they also find themselves, whether intentionally or by accident, in Little Italy, seeking a bowl of perfect pasta or a perfect Neapolitan-style pizza. While there are still a few places worth visiting there, this exercise, though logical in its intentions, is misguided. Because the "neighborhood Italian restaurants" that people often envision, the truly good ones, have been scattered throughout the city. And Franny's is one of them — well-known enough to draw in regulars from the community, but not "hyped" in the sense of being jam-packed with folks making special trips just to eat there, whether from Tallahassee, Fla., or some far-flung locale like say, Manhattan.
But what if you want to experience all this in the comfort of your own home? Well, now you can, with the restaurant's official cookbook. Bring a little bit of neighborhood Italian cooking into your home without making a trip to New York, and try the recipes below.
Stephens and Feinberg offer their take on a classic Ligurian salsa maro. (Photo courtesy of John von Pamer)
These, too, are inspired by a classic regional dish, this time from Naples, where they're one of the classic fritto. (Photo courtesy of John von Pamer)
There are countless reimagined versions of Caesar salad out there, but we like this one thanks to its innovative use of dandelion greens. (Photo courtesy of John von Pamer)
Will Budiaman is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.