One of my missions on this trip to New York is to find a good, simple, home-cooked Italian restaurant. A neighborhood restaurant with a loyal following and reasonable prices that a monthly visit is not an unreasonable request. Batali's Babbo is still one of my favorites, however, shelling over $100 per person plus wine might be a bit much on amonthly schedule. Frank Restaurant and Vera Bar in the East Village is that kind of place.
It was a sunny day in New York last Monday and the Filipino restaurant my daughter, Margaux, and I wanted to visit happened to be closed. We were attracted to the charming outdoor seating at Frank's and thought that this was a good place to enjoy some pasta and watch the day pass us by. The people watching was top notch. Attractive older ladies in Parisian garb, tattooed men with their purse dogs, a man on a unicycle and another pushing a razor scooter in his suit. Perez Hilton would have had a hey day.
Frank Prisinzano, the owner, is a CIA graduate, and legendary in the East Village for his three restaurants and philanthropic projects. Frank's grandmother's, Carmela and Vera, passed on their recipes to him. Even on her deathbed, Carmela requested that Frank recite the recipes by memory to make sure that every little detail was according to her specifications.
We came here for the food and as soon as I saw the Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and imported sardines ($15.95), I was definitely in. The up-charge of $4 for the two sardines was a bit on the high side, though the dish itself did not disappoint. The spaghetti danced to an aria in my mouth with a just enough garlic to give it a zing. My daughter, Margaux, enjoyed the Uncle Tony's handmade gnocchi with tomato, basil and parmesan ($13.95). My brother, Brian, later joined us, and the three of us enjoyed the Antipasto Italiano platter ($14.95) of sopressata, prosciutto, arugula and buffalo mozzarella.
Frank's boasts an Italian wine list of 750 bottles plus several beers on tap. The interior, decorated in heirloom photographs and Italian memorabilia, is charming and cozy. A large communal table up to twenty guests sits in the back of this narrow restaurant - a perfect spot for a small gathering of friends and family.
Stop by Frank's next time you're in the East Village. And yes, don't bother with the credit cards. Frank's only accepts cash.
88 2nd Avenue