A two-hour wait at 295 Flatbush Avenue was once as inevitable as stroller jams in Park Slope or sludge in the Gowanus Canal. The crowds came for Franny’s, the farm-to-table pizza trailblazer, from husband-and-wife owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, that recently migrated to a larger location down the street.
For their follow-up venture, Feinberg and Stephens have downshifted, reimagining the space that once held their revved-up pizza parlor as a dapper trattoria. The intimate restaurant bears more elegant touches than before: Behind the gleaming front bar’s frosted-glass partition is a dining room of rich mahogany tables and vintage chairs from famed midcentury designer Paul McCobb.
Gone is the beloved pizza oven, replaced in the open kitchen by a shiny, wheel-cranked wood grill. Its crackling flame anoints lamb chops ($30) with heady smoke and finger-licking char, but renders striped bass ($25) undercrisp and just undercooked.
Where Marco’s misses, it doesn’t miss by much, but even a few small details left unattended can discomfit. You wish they brought bread—even if it’s becoming a dated convention—especially when you’re left wanting to sop up the yolky dregs of a fried egg ($11), autumn-rich with pumpkin and fried sage and brightened by pickled quince. A side of sweet, charred leeks ($9) is sunk into the blissfully briny deep by anchovies, but the long, stringy strands, wound tight like a ball of yarn, prove vexing to eat. Seductively chewy bigoli noodles ($18) are the better vehicle for anchovies, spiked with the salty fish and earthy nibs of cauliflower.
Without unimpeachable pies to fall back on, Marco’s must thrill its guests by leaving them feeling cared for in every way. A few tweaks and that’s just the sort of neighborhood charmer it might be. With Feinberg and Stephens at the helm, I wouldn’t bet against it.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Meal highlights: Fried egg with pumpkin, bigoli with cauliflower and anchovies, lamb chops, brown-butter nut tart
Behind the bar: Steal a few minutes for a cocktail at the marble bar, before tucking into the Tuscan-heavy Italian wine list; a glass of full, berry-tinged Il Macchione Rosso di Montepulciano makes a handsome sidekick for crusty lamb chops.
Vibe: Stylish enough for the young and sexy, but comfortable enough for a casual night out in the neighborhood
Cocktail chatter: Aside from the brick wall and a reclaimed pew from a Crown Heights synagogue, Feinberg and Stephens’s only holdover from Franny’s is executive chef Danny Amend, who spent six years in its kitchen after a stint at Per Se.
Soundcheck: With the throngs of Franny’s devotees relocated down the street, the pizza-crazed clamor has dissipated into a gentle rumble.
By: Daniel S. Meyer