So, one more meal to go. It’s said that there are over 4,000 restaurants to choose from in New York, and every appetite is catered for: hot dogs, burgers, superlative Chinese and Italian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Korean, Jewish, Hungarian… so on a short break, it pays to choose wisely. However, one place kept popping up in hot lists and recommendations, so off I went to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, to Frankie’s Spuntino.
This cosy neighbourhood restaurant run by Franks Castronovo and Falcinelli specialises in “spuntino”, a small Italian snack, here magnified to New York proportions. They have another that does Teutonic-style meats a few doors down, an artisanal coffee shop in nearby Cobble Hill and a second Spuntino in the West Village. Carroll Gardens is the original and it’s no-reservations – the full dining room was humming to the sounds of contented diners and the Led Zep/Beatles soundtrack on my Friday night visit.
It’s pleasingly unceremonious: pared-back brick walls, rough wooden tables, low-wattage bulbs and an unfussy menu. The aubergine caponata crostini was generous and had a nice, sharp kick. It was complemented by another with plump Sicilian white anchovies layered on top. A roasted beetroot and avocado salad let the ingredients, rather than the chef, steal the show.
The highlight was the crowd-pleasing ricotta Cavatelli with Italian sausage and browned sage butter – the hand-made ricotta-based pasta curls had just the right level of bite, the spicy rounds of sausage from Faicco’s Pork Store in the West Village were nicely browned, the butter sauce rich and fulsome.
The only disappointments were the slightly rushed service and a so-so chocolate tart. We’d have been happy to have stayed holed up in there for longer, but the queue forming at the door was our cue to go.
Happily there’s a cookbook, so I’ll be giving the Cavatelli a go at home very soon.