PW Best Books 2010: The Frankies Spuntino: Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual
You’ve got two bearded Italian guys in their 40s—both from Brooklyn, both named Frank—who knew each other from the old neighborhood and, later, crossed paths in the restaurant industry as French-trained chefs. They get together and, tapping into their culture heritage, form a restaurant, Frankies 457 Spuntino, that is equal parts nostalgic and hip. Not an easy feat.
Their book, which has an earthy 1970s feel, is complete with gilded pages and hand-drawn illustrations.
As for the recipes, you can’t get any more traditional and simple: meatballs (baked, not fried), and braciola, made with 8oz pork shoulder steaks (rolled with garlic provolone and parmesan). For starters, there’s a great recipe forscarol’ e fagiol’—escarole and bean soup.
Towards the end of the book is a detailed recipe that this Italian American, 40-something man would have loved years earlier—a timeline for preparing your grandmother’s Sunday gravy, or sauce (which includes the above-mentioned meatballs and braciola). It begins on Saturday with a visit to the grocery store, butcher shop and bakery. Sunday starts with 6 a.m. Mass, which ends in time to return home by 7 to begin the tomato sauce. (“We are not our grandmothers,” the authors note. “Wish we had their stamina.” And they adjust their schedules, sans church, to begin cooking at noon—with dinner on the table by 6pm.)
They further impart the unspoken wisdom from their grandmothers, gleaned only from years of observation:
Dig in. Eat and enjoy. Deny that it was any work when everybody asks if you’re tired.
Do it every Sunday.
Do it forever.