I love a good backyard party. The fact is, I have not been throwing nearly enough of them in the past few years ever since my Brooklyn deck turned into a Queens backyard. That is not to place blame as much as it is to publicly say I am bringing them back this summer. If you don’t get an invite or if you prefer the professional chef version of this American past time, I have great news but it’s unfortunately not directions to my house. The two Franks, yes those Frankie Spuntino legacy guys, have just announced their 3rd annual backyard chef series. For those of you who live under a rock (aka. Deep Queens or the Upper West Side) Frank and Frank did some remodeling last year. They closed Prime Meats, their German steak house, and converted it into Franks. Confusing I know. Their reinvented spot is split between a wine bar and a trattoria. They also expanded the Frankie’s Spuntino dining room which allows for a new and improved backyard scene. All this means that this years line up has some new space and some new ingredients, or accouterments, to play with. The guest chefs include some of my favs like Angie Rito from Don Angie’s and Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted. A few out-of-towners are in the mix like the talented Kristian Baumann from Copenhagen’s Restaurant 108. The best part of all this is the entire evening is communal. From the welcome drinks to the long dining table you’ll make new friends at, things will get intimate. The spots at the table will fill up fast so make sure you pick a chef and grab up some seats before your only option is a useless attempt at a remake in your friend backyard alley, a $6.99 Walmart mini- bricket bbq and a 6-pack of canned rose. May 15th thru September 25th in Brooklyn.
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Dinner, food science, your favorite chefs and helping kids. We should end this post right there. There won’t be a better sentence than that in the rest of this post. Despite that not even being a full sentence, we’ll fill you in a bit more. Jeff Salaway was one of the founders of Hayground school and he passed in 2001. His friends and family carried on his mission which is best summed up in the following quote. Jeff believed, “The growing, preparation and sharing of food is a primal human experience and the foundation of family and community.” Sounds a lot like what we’re always talking up. No wonder we were enamored by this event and the work the Hayground School is doing with kids. Although a seat at Hayground Chef’s Dinner is a steep one, it couldn’t benefit a more important cause. Teach a kid to fish Jesus once said. Or, was that Tom Colicchio? Either way, invaluable skills. Sunday, July 31st at 6pm in Southhold, New York.
Most Italian meals we make from memory. Burned into our brains as kids between our grandmother and mother making dinner each night. The magic of Sundays and holidays always brought new dishes across our plates. When we do need help one of the books we reach for is The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. It’s simple, classic and filled with stories. Just the way we like it. Now, the Franks have introduced a little of that childhood cooking feels back into our lives with their Frankies “Cook the Book” Club. Each month you get 3 dishes to feed 4-6 guests. Curated and pre-prepared by the Frankies team the accompanying instructions guarantee a perfect meal and a bolstered kitchen confidence. Think, Radish Salad with Parsley, and Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs with Rosemary & Fennel. You just need to do a little finishing. Just enough to make you feel accomplished. If you are a fan up plus ups, The two Franks provide a scratch for that itch too. A proper wine pairing or a bottle of Frankies’ Olive Oil is easy to include in your box. As a bonus, the club comes with 10% off all in-store purchases at the Frankies Pantry, their mini-alimentari. First access to events, collaborations, and new membership offerings, like their Provisions Box.
Ahh, yes. The red sawce joint. There's nothing like sliding across that squeeky, fifty year old, red leather banquet as you temper your anticipation for the abundance when classic Italian-American dishes start hitting the table. The bubbling mozzerella on the veal parmagiana with wild spirals of spaghetti marina poking out from all sides. A spicy red curtain coating a bowl of uncle Vinnie's (or Joe or Sal or Paulie's) scungilli fra diavlo. Clams casino. Linguini vongole. Eggplant rollatini. Chicken saltimbocca. Nonna made tirimisu. The hits are all there. Too many, in fact, to make a decision. That's why you decided to bring a group. Part family, part friends, ALL FRAMLY. I've been feeling nostalgic lately, hence my TikTok, and learning more about how Italians migrated to America. This packs some very interesting, and some rarely told, stories. Many of these tales led me to an Italian restaurant story. This in turn sparked the idea to map the best of the classics, starting with New York.
The below map will evolve as I learn and catalog new areas. Next to be added, Queens.