The menu at Frankies 457 Spuntino reads like a gourmet marketplace, and placing an order amounts to trusting the chef to choose an antipasto plate full of cheeses and meats of superior quality. Lists of vegetables like broccoli raab and cremini mushrooms--usually compliments to a pasta or a meat dish--can stand alone on a plate, with sauces soaked up by the perfectly crusty bread from Grandaisy Bakery.
On a recent rainy Wednesday night, the wait for a table at the Carroll Gardens restaurant was an hour long but worth the way for anyone hankering after choice meats, cheeses, handmade sandwiches, small roasted-and-cured vegetable salads, and homemade pastas, which live up to the namesake idea of the Spuntino: a casual restaurant that serves small plates of the above. As fair warning, a serving of each item--cheese, vegetable, meat, crostini--can be small, and is best shared by two, so order copiously or in multiples if your party is large in number.
The wine list has a copious number of Italian wines, divided by region and then by varietal. The most reasonable is a decidedly decent $12 carafe of the house red (a half liter), with a dozen other wines also available by the glass or carafe.
It can be hard to separate appetizers from mains with so many options for nibbling, but a safe bet is the refreshing fennel and celery root salad dressed up with red onion, parsley, lemon, and pecorino. Alternate bites between salad and our antipasto plate, full of tissue-thin prosciutto, both spicy and sweet soppressata (the spicy is better), roasted cauliflower and a buttery taleggio eaten with the Grandaisy bread, were almost enough to fill one up before splitting an entree.
Of the specials, it was a tough choice between gnocchi and cavatelli, but the latter was highly recommended and arrived billowy with hot sausage and browned sage butter. The pasta must be eaten as soon as it arrives at the table, before it cools enough to get a tad soggy from the sauce. Of a handful of dessert options, the smell of torched sugar wafting over our table all night made the vanilla bean creme brulee the obvious option, a delightful combination of crunchy and creamy.
Frankies 457 Spuntino is located at 457 Court Street (at Luquer Street), 718-403-0033. Another Frankies outpost, Frankies 17, is located at 17 Clinton Street in Manhattan, 212-253-2303.