When Franny’s, a bright, modern pizza and pasta restaurant on Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, made New York Magazine‘s 101 Best Restaurants list (coming in at #48), I had to admit I’d never heard of it. It caught my eye on the list for that reason, and because it was in my neighborhood.
Franny’s, named for one of its two co-owners (Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg) opened in 2004 to great reviews. Its Neapolitan-style pizzas have been praised for their lightness and use of local ingredients. The restaurant is successful enough that it’s moving down Flatbush in November to an old Blockbuster video store site (after a thorough renovation of course), doubling its capacity.
On the drinks side, Franny’s lists assorted amari (though nothing unusual), whiskeys and gins by brand (including two genevers and one old tom-style gin), and a stellar selection of Italian wines.
There are seven cocktails on the current menu, including two classics (Brooklyn and Negroni). I opted for the Il Patrizio ($12): Old Overholt rye, Amaro Lucano, sassafras, and a float of Fernet Branca.
It’s a deep and bitter cocktail, served in a Collins glass, topped off with soda over ice with a straw. The flavor is very complex; almost meaty and smoky. The sassafras adds a subtle root beer-like element, and the Fernet (if you’re drinking out of the straw) doesn’t appear much until you’re almost through. I meant to ask the bartender what form of sassafras they use — tea, syrup? — but I didn’t get the chance. (Sassafras, which comes from a tree of the same name, was banned in some forms decades ago as a carcinogen.)
I’m not familiar with the amaro used here either but each one is different, so substituting for another one could dramatically change the cocktail. Amaro Lucano lists rue, artemisia, salvia, cinnamon, orange, basil, aloe, savory, coriander, oregano, gentian, marjoram, angelica, and elder flowers as its primary herbal ingredients. It traces its history back to a small-town bakery in 1894 in Italy. A bottle runs about $26.
Incidentally, Amaro Lucano went through a bottle redesign last year, done by the Milan-based firm Robilant & Associati. The new bottle is the one on the left.