14 November, 2010

Franny's on Flatbush

New York has always been a pizza town, at least within living memory. Amidst the current American renaissance of pizza one could easily forget that twenty years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a great pie in Seattle or Phoenix but could have strolled into any number of pizzerias in New York and walked away with a delicious slice.

Franny's is not one of those pizzerias. More to the point, Franny's is not a New York pizzeria at all but a restaurant which serves pizza. Rather than firing pies in a gas or coal oven, Franny's uses a wood-fired oven, like they do in Italy (or now, Phoenix) and its pies are Italian in inspiration if not in DOC. As commonplace as restaurants serving Neopolitan-style pizza have become across the country, it is important to remember that when Franny's started in 2004 serving Italian-inspired pizza, made with local, organically-small-sustainably-farmed ingredients, it was a new and different idea and not a cliched trend. Franny's and the neighborhood just across the street, Park Slope, helped popularize that trend; without even tasting the food we can say that Franny's is an important restaurant.

But what about that Pizza? It is, in a word, scrumptious. As alluded to above, Franny's doesn't serve pizza which abides by the oddly fascist, almost Germanic and strict definition of pizza emanating from Napoli. In general form it is Italian - individual serving sized pizzas, spare application of toppings, thin but not cracker-thin crust - but small details, like the crust with a small and only slightly puffed rim, suggest they do it their own way. Their ham and onion pizza, an Italianate spin on Tarte Flambe with a much more Italian and classy-sounding name on the menu, was an almost perfect balance of salty, yeasty charred crust, pork, sweet onions and Parmigiano.

Their spin on the Margharita, with buffalo mozzarella, was admirable as well. The quality of the cheeses was high, countered by sauce which was sparingly applied and frankly a background note. Would basil - unseasonable! not local! - have improved the pizza? Perhaps, and maybe we will have to be back for dinner in the summertime.

The crust of both pies was quite charred as can be seen by the Adam Kuban-style "upskirt" shot below. The oven was an impressively large edifice and appeared to be handmade out of large bricks, but for its size, proximity to the dining room and open kitchen they had clearly designed a great kitchen ventilation system.

Franny's does not just signal the first wave of nouveau-Neopolitan pizzas into New York, however. By virtue of it's location it was one of the first upscale restaurants to locate in Prospect Heights, the neighborhood to the north of Park Slope which in 2004 could be called up-and-coming.
As the phalanxes of expensive strollers streamed north from Park Slope, Franny's was at the point of the spear; today, it would be difficult to call any neighborhood with a Richard Meier luxury condominium "up-and-coming". The grand brownstones of Bed-Stuy can attest to the fact that the twentieth century was not kind to New York City. Franny's is a taste of it's 21st-century renaissance.

Go while you can. In New York, change is a constant and you never know when the next, even fancier wave will sweep over Flatbush, leaving nothing but chain stores and bank branches in its wake.

Franny's, 295 Flatbush Ave.

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Note: according to Slice, the correct name for the style of pizza is "Neapolitan American"


  1. They do not however cut the pizza into slices for you. Minus two points.

  2. they don't cut it into slices in Naples either.

  3. nice first post! keep 'em coming.

  4. looks delicious...wish i were at franny's right now.

  5. @Anon: in Naples they also put dioxins on their pizza, but I'll leave that for a later post...

  6. Suggestion for the next post: "Ray's on 86th and Broadway - the worst pizza since the fall of the Soviet Union"

  7. Original Ray's or Original Famous Ray's?