Mon–Thu, 5:30pm–11pm; Fri, 5:30pm–11:30pm; Sat, 12pm–2:30pm and 5:30–11:30pm; Sun, 12pm–2:30pm and 5:30pm–11pm
2, 3 at Bergen St.; B, Q at Seventh Ave.
By now, the star trajectory of the Manhattan food demigod is well established: hit it big in an obscure restaurant, hastily publish a glossy cookbook (or three), take a few bows on TV, then open other larger, more prominent establishments as quickly as possible in order to monetize your fame. In neighborly, brownstone Brooklyn, however, things tend to move at a more leisurely pace. Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg opened their seminal “new Brooklyn” pizzeria, Franny’s, in a storefront space on Flatbush Avenue way back in 2004. As news of the excellence of their wood-fired pizza and market-driven pastas spread far and wide, they continued, well, to make more pizzas. Eventually, they opened a shop across the street (Bklyn Larder). They published their first cookbook just this year (with a foreword by Alice Waters), and now, after nearly a decade of success, they’ve finally gotten around to opening another restaurant.
To be fair, Stephens and Feinberg have actually opened two new restaurants this year. The original Franny’s has moved several blocks up Flatbush, to a larger, more polished, more user-friendly space, complete with lunchtime service, a busy pizza-to-go operation, two state-of-the-art wood-fired pizza ovens (instead of one), and an expanded drinks program. The new Franny’s now takes reservations for large groups, and there’s also an online shop, selling Franny’s baseball caps, NPR-style Franny’s tote bags, and even Franny’s hoodies. The snug former Franny’s space has been remodeled and is now home to a slightly more ambitious Italian trattoria called Marco’s. There’s no pizza at this new operation, but if you’re one of the old Park Slope devotees who consider the new Franny’s to be a little more hectic and impersonal than the original, you may think you’ve died and gone to restaurant heaven.
At least that’s how several of the card-carrying Brooklynites at my table looked as they happily studied their menus in the cozy gloom of Marco’s unassuming dining room. In the tradition of fine-dining establishments all over Kings County, there’s a minimum of artifice on the walls. The lighting emanating from the filament bulbs overhead is dim, bordering on gray, and the old Franny’s café furniture has been cleared away and replaced with sturdy brown tables that look like they’ve been lifted from the parlor of someone’s ancient brownstone. The Italian, non-red-sauce menu is printed on brown paper and can be difficult to decipher without the help of a miner’s lamp. But once you’ve acclimated yourself to the local conditions, you quickly see that it’s compact and to the point, and that almost everything on the menu looks like something you’d want to eat.