457 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 403-0033

Not so long ago, telling someone that you were going out to dinner in Brooklyn would have been met with a raised eyebrow. Brooklyn food, unless you were headed to Peter Luger or the now defunct Gage & Tollner, meant a Nathan’s hot dog or a slice of pizza from Totonno’s. And neither of those was ever really worth traveling very far to get to. Brooklyn was known for people who felt that upscale cuisine was for sissies and who still fumed about the Dodgers 1958 move to LA. Well, times have changed. Brooklyn has become the place to be if you’re a cool, young grad student but can’t afford rent in the Village or if you’re a newly married couple who wants a brownstone but can’t afford to push your Bugaboo around the Upper West Side.

Following them, the restaurants have arrived with a vengeance. There are literally dozens of great restaurants in Brooklyn now. And with the threat of being stabbed in the subway down dramatically since 1986, people are going out of their way to eat in them.

Frankies 457 Spuntino, in Carroll Gardens, is one such great little place. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall Italian that’s easy to walk past without seeing, but if you do miss it, you’re missing out. There are a handful of tables at the back, a small bar at the front, and the open kitchen is smack in-between. I love open kitchens. Don’t ask me why. There’s also a patio out back that I’m gonna bet is really nice in the summer.

The high tin ceiling, large fans, and exposed, artless brick walls are dimly lit by what I swear are two-watt bulbs. This creates a very moody, turn-of-the-century aura. Anywhere else and I’d wonder when Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde was planning on showing up, but you’re never given time for that sinister feeling to creep up on you. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by one of the smiling, happy staff and led to your table. In fact, they were so nice that part of me thinks that they’d have paid the bill if I asked nicely enough.

I went with my friend, M, who’d been to Frankies once before. She thought it was very good (she loved one dessert in particular) and wanted to go back to prove to herself it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t.

For a starter, M ordered the long-named fennel, celery root and parsley, sliced red onion and lemon salad. I ordered the lentil with smoked bacon soup. I didn’t try the salad but M liked it. I enjoyed the soup. The bacon added a nice smokeyness. But here’s the thing. When I cook, I use salt extremely sparingly, so I pick up on salt very easily. A little goes a long way for me, and the soup had more than I would have liked. I think that maybe switching to a low sodium bacon would do the trick. Not that I wouldn't order it again.

My entree was the squash and yam ravioli, which I really recommend, but I warn you, it’s heavy. So was M’s hand-made gnocci marinara. Both were vegetarian pastas and both the pastas were excepitionally smooth. They practically melted when you bit into them. The attention given to these dishes was noticeable, but they should come with a warning: ordering dessert risks explosion.

That didn't stop us though. M was there for the dessert, so skipping it wasn't an option. We split the red wine prunes and mascarpone. And here's where I felt guilty. The mascarpone was the predominant reason M recommended Frankies for dinner. This bizarre little dessert was so good the first time around, she was worried that round two would change her mind. Upon ordering it, our waitress' eyes lit up. It's her favorite, too! Ah, I can see them both now, basking in the glow of the mascarpone's sweet goodness... It arrives and we dig in. Still good. Eye-rollingly good. For M.

I, on the other hand, was indifferent. It was good, for sure. But maybe it was too sweet. Maybe I was too full. Maybe there was too much hype. Maybe it reminded me of a prune and port glaze I've made for pork roast and I couldn't picture it in dessert form. Either way, I'm in the minority here, and suggest you try it for yourself. The waitress seemed hurt when I tepidly said, "I like it."

Our meal, which included appetizers, entrees, a couple of glasses of wine each, and a shared dessert was a bit under $90, including tax and tip.

Times are still changing. Those who cleaned up so many Brooklyn neighborhoods paved the way for less adventurous (but more monied) people to feel comfortable building nice new condos. Many of these new buildings are just as expensive as their Manhattan counterparts, and I predict a northern movement of hip financial refugees. Right to my door. The better restaurants may very well be on their way to Queens.

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