"We created this place and this food because it's what we honestly want, not because we're trying to get other people to want it."
Prime Meats restaurant. © Simon Watson.
That irreverent, take-it-or-leave-it approach has worked for Frank Falcinelli and his co-chef and business partner, Frank Castronovo. Despite their avowed refusal to cater to popular tastes, their restaurants are now some of New York City's best hangouts. Their Brooklyn empire began with the Italian-American Frankies Spuntino (there's a second location in lower Manhattan, too) and recently expanded to a historically minded German-American spot, with an exceptional cocktail bar, called Prime Meats. They own two espresso shops, with a third on the way, and peddle their own brand of Sicilian olive oil.
The Franks opened Frankies in 2004, before Brooklyn had a thriving restaurant scene. Neither chef was a young hotshot; both were nearing their forties and had worked at fancy restaurants since their teens. Castronovo had apprenticed in France, including a stint at the revered Paul Bocuse; Falcinelli had cooked in Manhattan at Aureole and ran the very trendy 1990s restaurant-lounge Moomba. Frankies was their return to the Italian-American food of their childhoods in Queens, New York. "We'd call our grandparents asking, 'How'd you make that dish again?' " Castronovo says.