No birthday, in my opinion, would be complete without some really, really good food, and some seriously awesome company with which to enjoy it. A good thing, then, that my friend Miya came out in the blustery rain to meet me for lunch on Friday at one of my very favorite places, Frankie's Spuntino.
Frankie's offers sandwiches and a brunch menu, but I knew that I, at least, was destined for pasta. I love their pasta. And their salads are pretty damn good, too. In fact, I remembered that Miles' Caesar salad had been something approaching perfection, and decided to start with that. My memory, it turns out, was spot-on. Caesar salad can be really, really boring, but Frankie's version is anything but. It's salty and earthy from the anchovies, a bit funky from the parmesan cheese, and super-creamy from the egg. Topped with a bit of spicy, freshly-ground black pepper, it's a crunchy pile of Italian-American goodness - which is really what Frankie's is all about.
For my main, I had the cavatelli with hot sausage, browned butter and sage. I. Love. This. Dish. It's a remarkably satisfying combination of flavors, with the nuttiness of the butter playing perfectly against the spicy, salty sausage and the piney sage. In fact, I love it so much that I make my own version - with orrechiette - on a fairly regular basis. But nothing can top the original.
Miya ordered the gnocchi with marinara sauce and fresh ricotta. I am not usually a fan of gnocchi; I've too often been disappointed by leaden or soggy lumps of potato flour when I should be delighted by soft pillows of the same. Frankie's gnocchi, however, are definitively delightful. They come dressed in what is known in Italian-American circles as "gravy," a slightly tangy marinara sauce made from the best tomatoes and little else, other than know-how. The ricotta elevates the proceedings from delightful to sublime. It's cool and milky against the acidic tomatoes, and compliments the gnocchi's own creaminess.
No Italian meal would be complete without a shot of espresso, and Frankie's delivered pretty well in this area, too. Their espresso is dark, strong and full of so-coffee-y-it's-almost-sweet flavor. Nothing settles the tummy after a giant plate of buttered pasta like espresso.
Miya took her leftover gnocchi home in an adorably stamped paper bag. I'm kinda wishing I'd brought the tiny bit of cavatelli left on my plate home with me. Maybe next time...
Frankie's 17 Spuntino
17 Clinton Street (between Houston and Stanton)