A new day is upon us. Who would have thought a few years ago that you could walk into a pizza place and find out where every single ingredient came from and on what farm it was grown? And I’m not even talking about the required San Marzano tomatoes (which are grown at the foot of Mount Vesuvius) for a Neapolitan pizza.
No, I’m talking about where the pork for the pepperoni is from and the farm that grew the peppers. And let’s take it to the next level and learn how the kitchen grease is made. Franny’s in Brooklyn has a whole list of these resources on the back of their menu. I’m surprised we don’t get the name of the cow who produced the butter.
This is definitely the latest craze, especially in New York and other major urban areas. They call them locavores, people who only eat local, sustainable food. And I’m all for it – it’s good for the environment, helps the economy, and makes for healthier, fresher meals. But the listing on the back of Franny’s menu almost feels as if they’re showing off. It comes across as slightly pretentious and ridiculous – do we seriously need to know where their cleaning solution comes from? But I guess it is good to know that it’s environmentally friendly.
The good thing is that this is only a back page announcement and the reason I came here on a crowded Tuesday night (although I gather most of their nights are busy) was for what’s on the front page. Franny’s is more than a pizza place. The menu is comprised of pizza, salumis (cured meats), rustic Italian appetizers, and usually pastas (we were informed their pasta machine was sick tonight).
We started with a great wood-roasted octopus appetizer. I could immediately tell that there was a chef back there who knew what he was doing. The flavors were nicely balanced and all the textures were lively and eclectic. Of course, the local fresh ingredients only helped matters. And I gathered that the octopus was cooked in the same wood-oven our pizzas would soon be entering. I was getting more excited to try their much publicized pies.
There were some interesting and playful options on the menu. All the pizza choices were literally named and the list of ingredients served as the way to order. We settled on three pies: (1) the tomato, buffalo mozzarella, sausage, and hot peppers; (2) buffalo mozzarella, garlic, oregano; and (3) clams, chilies, parsley.
Each pie was individually portioned between 10 and 12 inches. I was surprised and a little frustrated that the pies were not cut. Did they want us to eat it with a knife and fork (as is the traditional Italian way), fold it up and eat it with our hands, or were they just being lazy (or once again, pretentious)? Since we were sharing, we had to cut our own pieces and it was not easy and more than a little messy.
When we finally got the pizza sliced, or mutilated, as it were, I finally had my first bite. And I really enjoyed it (and all the subsequent bites) Across the board, the flavors were lively and balanced. You could tell the ingredients were fresh (even if I hadn’t seen the back of the menu). The clam pie could have used some more clams, but the ones that made it were plump and tasty. It rivals Lombardi’s version, but they’re different enough that I don’t want to crown a winner in that race.
The first pie was closest to a traditional pie. And I think it was the favorite around the table. The second pie which had no tomato sauce had lots of flavor from all the garlic and herbs, but I would have liked a bit more cheese. I felt the cheese on all the pies sort of got lost in the fluffiness of the dough.
So, now the dough. It was light, airy, and delicious, but not what I expect from pizza crust. It was much closer to Indian nan bread. That’s my big criticism with their pizza. It felt like a variation on the classic dish rather than what most people expect when they order pizza. But I enjoyed every bite.
I can’t recommend Franny’s enough, but more as a restaurant and less as a pizzeria. We had a great experience and will totally come back. But in my search for the city’s best “pizza”, this can’t quite compete. It’s sort of its own delicious beast. And if you want to know what farm that beast comes from, just flip over the menu.
Is Franny’s the best pizza in NY? I almost feel like it’s in a league of its own. The food is fantastic, but I almost can’t consider it pizza. Taking all that into account, I give it a 7 out of 10