A Preliminary Assessment

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Clockwise from bottom left: A tomato, mozzarella, and fennel-sausage pie ($14); a tomato-and-mozzarella pie ($10); Franny's window signage; our friend "N" digs in. (These photos look like ass because the lighting was dim and I didn't want to arouse suspicion with flash photography.)

Last night was opening night at Franny's, the latest entity participating in the rapid gentrification of Flatbush Avenue from Saint Mark's Place to Sterling Place. While I have no opinion on the oft-touchy subject of affluent renewal-and-replacement, I do have a mad interest in pizza and so wasn't that upset to see a wood burning–oven shop open in a space once occupied by a rundown pet store that had offered a dolphin-themed 25-cent kiddie ride out front.

After rushing home from work, this pizza blogger met up with a fellow pizza enthusiast, and we eagerly braved the April showers to sample Franny's fare. We arrived to find a dining room ripe with the smell of fresh construction, one that was bustling with customers but which still had a few tables available (good, because we were worried about having to wait in the rain).

We were seated immediately and, almost as quickly, were provided a small bowl of olives to munch on while perusing the menu. Apparently there were nonpizza items on offer; they were not heeded (future trips to Franny's will include the procurement of a menu and a subsequent relay of information from this website to you). After inquiring as to the size of the pies (12"; the waiter informed us that Franny's serves all small dishes), we went with one mozzarella-and-tomato pie (the classic pizza marguerite minus the basil) and a mozzarella, tomato, and fennel-sausage pie.

Pies were delivered after about ten minutes, each uncut, on a ceramic dinner plate. They looked good, not overly burdened by any one component; the crust was golden brown with a hint of charring here and there; and the cheese (fresh mozz) was melted but not browned or burned. The crust, tinged with a smoky flavor, was thin, pliant, and satisfyingly chewy without being tough—but was a tad soggy in the middle; we would have preferred crisper. The cheese was of high quality—fresh tasting and creamy. And the sauce, too, was fresh tasting, and bright, and on the spectrum of sweet and not, it was just this side of sweet. The sausage, cured in-house, was delicious.

Is this a place for hardline enthusiasts devoted to old-guard New York piemaking? Probably not, what with the small, pricey pies ($10 for the most-basic pizza; $14 or so for various toppings) and upscale setting. Nonetheless, we were pleased with what we tried and can say that Franny's turned out some pizzas far and above the likes of which the Park Slope-Prospect Heights area has seen in a while.

On a totally non-food note: My dining companion found the light from the 48-inch bare fluorescent tubes above the make table to be quite harsh, especially because, toward the back of the restaurant, it competes with the soft glow coming from the 60-watt overhead incandescents. I agree and would also point out that the fluorescents end up backlighting the pizziola stretching out dough in front of the nice-looking brick oven. A few changes in lighting ("n" suggests adding baffles to the fluorescents while I suggest training accent lights on the pizzamaker and the oven) could dramatize kitchen action and furthur highlight the artisan appeal of this nice little addition to the neighborhood.

Franny's

Address: 295 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11217 (Prospect Heights; map)
Phone: 718-230-0221
Payment accepted: MasterCard, Visa, cold hard cash

Update: The first (mixed) review is in on Chowhound. [Via Astrid. Thanks!] An excerpt:

For our pizza, we shared the tomato and mozzarella with fennel sausage. It was tasty, but for $14 I was a bit disappointed (keep in mind also that these are intended as one-person pizzas). I'm recovering from a head cold right now, so perhaps my taste buds are not as acute as usual, but I didn't think it was that flavorful. Also, the crust lacked that crisped/charred texture/flavor that one expects of brick oven pizza. One interesting aside: the pizzas are served as unsliced rounds. Apparently this is how it's done in Italy. However, they are happy to slice them if you ask.

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