FRANKLY, MY DEAR, IT'S NOT VERY GOOD

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Let's call this the Slice home game—rather, the home-wrecking game. Surely the ramifications are nothing quite that serious, but the topic that sparked the spat certainly is.

A wistful wife swears by her standby pizza place. Her dubious husband wants no part of it. Who you gonna call? That was how Our Leader and I stumbled upon Frank's Pizza, a Gramercy Park mainstay that I left wishing would not stay.

Frank's is the kind of place I really did want to like. Its postage-stamp-size environs are inviting to sidewalk strollers. The vinyl-covered diner stools are as comfortable as the well-worn Formica countertops that line both sides of its lone room. The two-person staff was ready for our orders the minute we walked past the narrow dining area to the glass-enclosed serving station. In a word, this place is homey.

Unfortunately, the accolades end there, for Frank's is little more than the ubiquitous New York City "slice joint," the fast-food version of the pizza parlor. Two full pies were waiting to be divvied for the on-the-go lunch crowd one day last week. A reheat would have been bad enough, but these went straight to the paper plate. And not long after it went into my mouth, I was ready to go out the door. The crust was thicker than necessary, but still was not a burden on the bite. The cheese was flat, and lacked a defining flavor (needless to say, I'm skeptical of the menu's "fresh mozzarella" claims). On the other hand, its bright-red sauce, while far from perfection, was certainly passable for this level.

Therein lies the reason Frank's prevails: It isn't about striving for top quality among all pizza, but merely within its category. It's a pragmatic pie, one that serves for $11.50; at $1.50 a slice, it's better priced, and assembled, than most of the Famous Ray's variety.

If you need something to soak up the half-dozen pints you just swilled at Old Town Bar or Pete's Tavern, you could certainly do worse. But if great pizza is what you seek, there's no need to see for yourself—especially around these parts. Spend the extra money, and be grateful this neighborhood has two worthy places. La Pizza Fresca (31 East 20th Street, 212-598-0141) may appear somewhat gilded, but genteel pies like this are designed for serious consumers. Even better is newcomer Pinch: Pizza by the Inch (416 Park Avenue South, 212-686-5222). Gimmickry aside, it is one of the better places on the island. Each is considerably more refined, but, sadly, that has become the standard. Stellar slice joints catering to the local and lunchtime crowds are dwindling fast. Good pizza, with a little discernment, thankfully is not.

Frank's Pizza
Address: 127 East 23rd Street, New York NY 10010
Phone: 212-979-5469

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