2.5 stars for classic Italian at Frankie & Johnny's in Fort Lauderdale

 

2.5 stars for classic Italian at Frankie & Johnny's in Fort Lauderdale

frankie_johnny

Rochelle Koff

The walls of Frankie & Johnny’s are decorated with rows of charcoal caricatures, but you won’t recognize the faces unless you come here often. The drawings are of regulars who are hooked on the restaurant’s fat meatballs or like lingering at the small wine bar.

Named for a 1991 Al Pacino-Michelle Pfeiffer movie, Frankie & Johnny’s is known for its large portions of Italian staples. Get your kicks from champagne (including a $480 Perrier-Jouët rosé) or a varied international wine list that starts at $27 for a Wente Cabernet Sauvignon and includes Super Tuscans and labels from France, Argentina and California. The new chef Ryan Lorenzo (Valentino’s, Mark’s Las Olas) has added a few items from his family repertoire.

Ambience: Outside seating, elevated by white tablecloths and twinkly decorative lights, is in demand on a balmy night, but on a second visit we dined inside and found it a much friendlier experience. With only a handful of tables, the cozy dining room is where you’ll run into those regulars and get more personal attention from servers. You can chow down on huge plates of lasagna or gnocchi while listening to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin tunes piped in or sung on weekends by local crooners. (We figured we’d hear somebody shout “fuhgeddaboudit,” but it never happened.)

What Worked

  • Plump, juicy and deliciously rich stuffed mushrooms with a crab and artichoke mixture, Parmesan and a bit of cayenne
  • Eggplant appetizer - nearly paper-thin slices battered, crisply pan-fried and topped with a little marinara sauce, Parmigiana and a hint of basil
  • Grandmotherly good fist-sized meatballs made with pork and beef, pan-fried & braised in a hearty marinara sauce then served with greens, long peppers or a scoop of ricotta
  • Fried calamari
  • Mussels fra diavolo
  • Chicken livers
  • A large enough for two single-size portion of the Kitchen Sink — meatballs, mild Italian sausage and ultra-tender braised short ribs in marinara with ricotta and Parmesan
  • Pasta Frankie & Johnny’s — a flavorful bowl of rigatoni with lots of sausage and sautéed, garlic-spiked broccoli rab
  • Cannolis
  • Scrumptious, house-made ricotta cheesecake with a citrusy zing of lemon & orange zest and a splash of triple sec

 

What Didn't Work

  • Fine by not memorable lasagna
  • Pistachio-crusted grouper that would have benefitted from a thinner layer of ground nuts

 

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