Sunday, March 4, 2012

Frank's Pizza and Italian Restaurant, Manville, New Jersey

Frank's is one of those unassuming pizza places that also has a full restaurant attached. They have a combination of reasonable prices, convenient location, and local charm that makes it a busy place all week long. Their pizza is considered a staple by many locals, and their restaurant menu, packed full of the kind of Italian-American classics that everyone craves from time to time...

Their menu contains a wide variety of meat, seafood, and pasta dishes. Personally, I think that if you are talking about an Italian restaurant, the pasta will probably be the best way to tell if the place is on their A-game or not. Frank;s does not use fresh made pasta- and I really don't consider that a problem, or anything that detracts from them at all. If they advertised fresh pasta and what showed up on the plate was clearly dried pasta- the I'd be rightly upset. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dried pasta- it's just a slightly different animal than fresh pasta.

It was a Friday during lent, and the restaurant was packed. When pasta is one of the main focal points of the menu, there is always something lent-friendly. We were caught unready to cook anything for dinner that evening, so we packed up the kids and headed out to Frank's. The wait staff was great, our server was very friendly to our somewhat precocious and somewhat excited kids. The kid's food arrived first, as it should, which made the rest of the meal much more manageable for the adults.

My dinner was the Linguini with Puttanesca Sauce. Puttanesca, for the uninitiated, is a tomato sauce with anchovies, capers, garlic, olives, and some chili flakes for heat. The anchovies, capers, and olives add briny, salty notes that play well with the base tomato sauce. Frank's version had all the salty pop I was looking for, and was a tasty sauce, but I found myself missing the heat from the chilis - I suspect they intentionally back off on the heat to avoid turning people off. My palate, however, has been trained by a lifetime of dining with the Sicilian side of my family, so I am acclimated to much stronger levels of heat than most people. The other problem I had was that the sauce was somewhat oily- I didn't notice it much while I was eating, but there was a definite pooling of excess oil on the bottom of my plate as time went on. All in all, it was still a good, but not perfect, plate of pasta.

My wife had a dish that sounded very good when I saw it on the menu- I very nearly ordered it for myself- the Gnocchi Julianna- a plate of potato Gnocchi tossed with chunks of grilled salmon and sun-dried tomatoes. The whole thing is dressed with a mix of olive oil and a touch of tomato sauce. The bite I tried was nice- the idea of pairing potato-based dumplings with salmon is a good one- it comes off almost like a light potato salad with a lighter dressing. The problem is that an entire plate of it can quickly become heavy between the gnocchi, the rich fish, and the oily dressing. I think it was really a question of balance- the dressing for this one came off very oily, which, I think, threw off the balance of the dish. Where the dish calls for just enough oil to lightly coat and lubricate the Gnocchi, this plate had a definite pool of oil in the bottom right from the start. I like the concept, and the first few bites, showed that it worked, but that night's execution was a little heavy-handed.

Again, despite the flaws, the meal was still enjoyable, and I would go back again. Even if they don't get it 100% right every time, there are some places you just keep supporting- because they are "your" local place, and you know that that CAN and DO usually get it right.

1 comment:

  1. The gnocchi look like tube grubs. Watch your carbs, paesan. You don't want to end up like me.Trust me.:o)