Feinberg has a deft touch with vegetables, like the simple, springy plate of crunchy shaved asparagus, dressed with fragrant olive oil and lemon and showered with Parmigiano-Reggiano. In a world of drab insalate tricolori, Franny’s house salad of escarole and red onions is a simple breath of fresh, parsley-strewn air. Crispy-leafed, tender-stalked fried artichokes do Rome’s Jewish ghetto proud.
Primi portions of pasta reprise the seasonal theme as well as the Italian mantra of simplicity. One night it’s spaghetti with garlicky ramps and spring herbs, cooked a tad past al dente; another it’s spaghetti cacio e pepe, that splendid streamlined mixture of grated pecorino, black pepper, and olive oil. Ricotta gnocchi with stinging nettles conjures something out of Little Shop of Horrors; in fact, they’re quite harmless, lumpy green dumplings, smelling of spinach, impossibly light, and fairly drenched in butter and Parmigiano—an equally addictive cousin of Al di là’s Swiss-chard malfatti.
All of this is prelude to the pizza, rough, rustic beauties perfumed with smoke, exquisitely charred, and served unsliced in the Neapolitan style. Franny’s makes much of its blazing wood-burning, brick-walled beehive oven, and with good reason: This is a crust-lover’s pie (at the expense, some might think, of the sauce, the cheese, and the toppings, which are applied with a minimalist touch), and the crust triumphs, even though Feinberg and crew must still be acclimating themselves to the dough and the fire. The pizza was different every time we had it, but always uncommonly tasty. A featherweight anchovy-and-caper pie was so thin on our first visit, it was almost see-through, the tomato sauce just barely painted on. Spicy artichokes with tomato and grated pecorino was a nifty combo, redolent of fresh mint. And as the crust continued to evolve, growing thicker and puffier around the edge, both the parsley pesto with ricotta and mozzarella and that memorable Maine meatball specimen approached pizza perfection.
For dessert, the dense, cakey tirami su and milky anise panna cotta both surpassed the sandy-textured pistachio gelato. But the true New York pizza lover, if he has any appetite left, will appreciate his good fortune, count his blessings, and order another pie for the road. Pizza this good, this soon, doesn’t come along every day—and that’s something even the most contentious critics can agree on.