How can you help falling in love with Italian twins who cook, serve and smile with such sincerity and aplomb that you immediately feel like a regular at their cherry-tomato-size eatery? Roberto and Emanuele Bearzi, the fratelli behind Fratelli Milano, have won a following since opening their budget-priced 22-seater nearly three years ago. Some fans are of the cut-your-pizza-with-a-knife-and-fork ilk, but many more come in jeans and sneakers. In the mornings, fresh-baked pastries and golden frittatas fly out the door in the hands of office workers in suits and pumps. The staff, which includes Roberto’s wife, Fiorella, keeps pace with a friendly word for all. It doesn’t hurt that the whole good-looking crew could have stepped from the pages of an Armani Exchange catalog.
The restaurant is an oasis in a gritty part of downtown where there isn’t much action at night — at least not of the kind you’d want the kids to see. The menu is fittingly limited, and not every dish rises to the level of the exquisite pastas and pizzas, but prices are so incredibly fair you would hardly bother to stay home and cook some of these dishes.
Ambience: The place has the same unpretentious charm, with seating at wooden tables and a pair of coveted booths in brown vinyl. Chocolate- and celery-colored walls are simply unadorned, and paper place mats don’t seem to matter.
- Show stealing hand-rolled pastas prepared by brother Emanuele
- A delicate pappardelle with a meltingly rich filet mignon and porcini ragu spiked with earthy chianti, bits of sun-dried tomatoes and a scoop of goat cheese Signature fiocchi di pera, petite purses of sunny yellow pasta pinched around a creamy puree of tangy taleggio cheese and sweet pear
- A room-brightening, classic sauce of butter and fresh sage leaves
- Penne spiga with thinly shaved wild mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, sautéed onions and a hint of garlic Uncharacteristically large portion sizes
- Willingness to split plates or even bring half orders
- Nicely scorched pizzas with just the right quantity of toppings
- A patriotic Garibaldi pizza with a snappy whole-wheat crust, loads of fresh spinach, grape tomato halves and dollops of goat cheese
- Incredibly satisfying and simple salmon all’aceto balsamico – a plum, hand-sized fillet set on a bed of peppery young arugula leaves and lightly kissed with complex aged vinegar
- Crisp, yet moist roasted rosemary potatoes
- Tender veal Milanese, pounded thin as pizza, sautéed in butter and expertly balanced on the plate with lots of fresh baby arugula, shredded basil and tomato salad
- Large, lightly dressed and well-composed salads with hits of bright color
- The list of a dozen moderately priced, mostly Italian wines
- Neatly lined rows of Napoleans, tiramisu, tarts and chocolate mousse
- Strawberry, raspberry and lemon fruit tarts elevated by a flaky, buttery crust and freshly whipped cream.