The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual


By Frank Castronovo

By Frank Falcinelli

By Peter Meehan

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“Everything I made from the book . . . was surprisingly easy and just as delicious as what I’ve eaten at the restaurants.” —New York Times Book Review

From Brooklyn's sizzling restaurant scene, the hottest cookbook of the season…

From urban singles to families with kids, local residents to the Hollywood set, everyone flocks to Frankies Spuntino—a tin-ceilinged, brick-walled restaurant in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens—for food that is "completely satisfying" (wrote Frank Bruni in The New York Times). The two Franks, both veterans of gourmet kitchens, created a menu filled with new classics: Italian American comfort food re-imagined with great ingredients and greenmarket sides. This witty cookbook, with its gilded edges and embossed cover, may look old-fashioned, but the recipes are just we want to eat now. The entire Frankies menu is adapted here for the home cook—from small bites including Cremini Mushroom and Truffle Oil Crostini, to such salads as Escarole with Sliced Onion & Walnuts, to hearty main dishes including homemade Cavatelli with Hot Sausage & Browned Butter. With shortcuts and insider tricks gleaned from years in gourmet kitchens, easy tutorials on making fresh pasta or tying braciola, and an amusing discourse on Brooklyn-style Sunday "sauce" (ragu), The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Kitchen Manual will seduce both experienced home cooks and a younger audience that is newer to the kitchen.






About These Recipes & This Cooking

1. Equipment & Pantry

2. Antipasto

3. Sandwiches & Soups

4. Salads

5. Pasta

6. Meats & Other Main Courses

7. Sunday Sauce

8. Desserts





The Frankies Crest


I didn’t immediately recognize the number but I picked up anyway. It was a voice out of my past: Frank Falcinelli.

We’d met during my brief, unsatisfying, and unsuccessful turn in the public relations business. (I was twenty-two and didn’t really understand what “public relations” was.) He was the chef at a place called Moomba, which scored two stars from Ruth Reichl in The New York Times. But by the time the PR firm I was working for got hired by the restaurant, the food had become an afterthought to the lounge upstairs, a fiercely guarded den of sin for models and celebrities.

We hung out a couple of times, had a couple of good nights. Frank eventually moved out west to open a Moomba in Los Angeles, and I thought that was the end of it. Then, boom, five or six years later a vaguely familiar 917 number pops up on my cell phone. Frank Falcinelli. He tells me he has opened a new place in Brooklyn.

I knew all that: my colleague, Dana Bowen, with whom I shared stewardship of The New York Times “$25 & Under” restaurant column for a spell, had written a glowing review of the restaurant Frankies Spuntino, which Falcinelli had opened with another guy named Frank, his partner and co-chef Frank Castronovo.

For me, it was halfway curious to see Falcinelli’s name, which I had vaguely associated with Asian–New American food, attached to a homey Italian-American spot in Brooklyn (though with a name like Falcinelli, it shouldn’t have been a surprise). Come check it out, he said, and he added some bait: there was going to be a party, with a bonfire in the back garden and Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes spinning records. I hadn’t been listening to a ton of Black Crowes at that point, but “Sometimes Salvation” was the first song I ever played onstage, back at a guitar showcase when I was fifteen, so that sounded like a good time. And who doesn’t like a bonfire? Why not go see what Frank was up to?

It was a great night. Frank had mellowed in the intervening years and ditched the whole Moomba scene. He and Castronovo were trying to create a restaurant that was welcoming, unpretentious, and warm. And it was, genuinely so.

Soon after, I went back to the Spuntino for dinner. Falcinelli describes the food that he and Castronovo serve as the “lighter side of Italian cooking,” in the sardonically cornball way he likes to brand everything (like calling this book “An Illustrated Guide to ‘Simply the Finest’”; or proclaiming that “Every day is Sunday” at the Spuntino).

I was skeptical of the conceit—maybe of Italian-American restaurants in general, after too many lackluster meals. But there was a curious ingenuity to the Franks’ take on Italian-American cooking—a lot of subtraction where other chefs would add, restraint where others would let loose.

Their avoidance of fried food seemed like a bad idea to me at first, but I realized that the more healthful approach made even the most indulgent classics that much more gentle. The Franks larded their menu with many of the nostalgic dishes that they had grown up with, including braciola, the cheese-stuffed braised pork shoulder that’s a hallmark of every red-sauce joint in Brooklyn. But their versions were lighter, easier to eat, and impossible not to crave. They were not so much reimagined as reconsidered.

In the years since I first trekked out to Brooklyn to visit the Spuntino, I’ve eaten an acre’s worth of the Franks’ Eggplant Marinara and probably made enough of their Caesar salad dressing to fill a claw-foot tub. I initially thought the white pepper they use, almost exclusively, was a strange affectation (a relic of their professional training in France), but now that I’ve tested their recipes over and over again in my own kitchen, I find that it’s the pepper grinder I reach for most often no matter what I’m making.

This cookbook was a slow and natural outgrowth of our developing friendship.

Over the years, I got to know both Franks better and their families, too: some of my favorite afternoons of the past few years were spent out at the beer garden with the gun range on Long Island with Falcinelli’s now 100-year-old grandfather, who’s sharper than either his grandson or me, and with Castronovo and his wife, Heike, who’s from the Black Forest of Germany, and their two kids, who are eternally tolerant and beatifically patient compared to what I was like at their ages.

Through the Spuntino, I also got to know Tony Durazzo, who’s an architectural engineer by trade, and helped the guys design and build their restaurants, but who is more importantly a talismanic presence, a connection to the Italian-Americanness of Carroll Gardens (where Tony grew up and where the Spuntino is located), to all kinds of aspects of hippie life in the 1960s and 1970s (which Tony lived), and, most importantly, to some really good food (like Tony’s recipe for Spuntino Meatballs, which is from his mom, on page 127). I also bonded with Travis Kauffman, the soft-spoken son of Michigan Mennonites, who designed books before getting mixed up (and eventually becoming a partner in) the restaurants.

It was Travis’s idea to create an embossed, gilded, faux-leather cover for this cookbook, with hand-drawn illustrations of everything from can openers to ravioli. I was trying to figure out the angle to take on the text when I ran into Michael Klausman, who I met that first night I went out to Frankies, the evening of the bonfire and the hang. Michael was playing records that night, too—he and Chris always did the nights at the Spuntino together—and we got to know each other over the next few months because he worked at Other Music, a record store where I spend a disproportionate amount of my income. I’d routinely go in, and he’d hip me to the latest reissues of folk records and other weird sounds, usually from the quiet, downer fringe.

One Saturday I was there to pick up some music, and he dropped a bomb on me: he and his girlfriend were unexpectedly pregnant. He asked me, as a food guy, about books to buy and what to cook—he and his girl had to start counting their pennies and he had to build up some dad skills. The Franks and I were already sketching out the recipes for this book, and I knew Michael liked their restaurant.

The thing: it would have been the perfect book for him then and there. The more I had learned about the Franks’ cooking at the Spuntino, the more truth I discovered in what they had told me was their secret: It’s that their cooking is dead simple. No extra steps or flourishes; this is one-pan and one-pot food, and that’s for the really complicated stuff. With a grinder full of white pepper and access to a decent Italian grocery, there’s nothing between these covers that’s beyond the skills of an absolute novice. And there are plenty of dishes—like Meatballs for the meat eaters or the Eggplant Marinara—that work well for a group, but, revisited a couple of times over the course of a couple of days, could sustain a couple that doesn’t have time to cook dinner every night. The Caesar Salad should outrage traditionalists in print but please the cook with its ease and make everybody happy on the plate.

It was going to be a great starter cookbook for a guy in Michael’s position: somebody who needed a companion to show him and his girlfriend around the kitchen and supply a few well-tested recipes, the kind that everybody likes (because everybody likes tomato sauce).

I didn’t have it then—instead I brought him a few huge cans of La Valle tomatoes, like they use at Frankies, and some good dried pasta. But I’ve got it now. This book is for anyone who needs ideas for some good, easy meals—for eating every day, for raising a family on, for entertaining friends and pleasing everybody. A little late for Michael, perhaps, but maybe not for you.

—pfm, 2010




The type of food we cook at the Spuntino is not complicated. You’ve probably got enough equipment on hand to make most of it right now. But there are a few tools that make it easier.

The Spuntino Starter Kit would include the knife set we prescribe herein, a gigantic sturdy mixing bowl, two pepper mills, a heavy-bottomed pot for boiling water and another for simmering the sauce.

A colander to drain the pasta is good to have, as is a wooden spoon to stir the sauce. It’s nice to keep a vegetable peeler around, but this food is rustic and simple enough so that you’ll get by just fine if you don’t.

A standing electric mixer that kneads pasta dough, whips egg whites, and creams butter is a serious time saver. KitchenAid mixers are our favorite. When we sneak a peek into friends’ kitchens and discover a KitchenAid mixer, we know they must be serious. (Sometimes more serious about having the latest cobalt-blue mixer than actually knowing how to use it, but we’re still happy to see them. Over the years we’ve had countless mixers fry out—like when a prep cook decides to double a pasta recipe and kills the motor—and knowing that you’ve got a friend with an unused shiny blue mixer that you can borrow is very reassuring.)

Grandma used her hands to make pasta and a whisk to whip cream, though, so I guess if you were going to throw something essential overboard, it would be the mixer—but that makes having a big cutting board or at the very least a very big slab of wood essential. In most Italian family kitchens, this board would double as a cutting station and a place to mix, cut, and shape pasta.

Once you have the basics, it’s very nice to embellish the collection with a cavatelli maker and a pasta machine.

In short: It doesn’t take much gear to make this sort of food. The equipment list is short, but the more tools you have from this chapter, the easier it will be to prepare the dishes in the book. More ease, less stress.


Vita-Mix is the first and last name in blenders. Every part is heavy-duty: the motor, the bearings, the power transfer station, and even the bushings. The lowest-end model Vita-Mix is the highest-end blender you could ever need at home. It will last forever.

We use blenders to emulsify our vinaigrettes until they’ve got a silky sheen. While you don’t need a Vita-Mix to make salad dressing, we don’t think you’ll ever regret buying one. Make sure to wash it well after each use; you don’t want to go on a health kick and start making smoothies that taste like Caesar salad.

Vita-Mix Blender


Our grandmas had box graters; our grandfathers had Microplanes, except they were called rasps and weren’t used for shredding cheese.

Frankly, if we were to have only one, it would be the box grater: the coarseness that even the fine side lends the cheese creates an appealing, old-world texture perfect for stuffing inside lasagna or a batch of meatballs or scattering over a plate of pasta.

But Microplanes are way better for grating the zest off citrus for cheesecakes and the like. You get all aromatic skin and no bitter white pith. They’re also excellent for when you want really, really finely grated, fluffy light cheese, like when it’s going over a salad.

Get one of each. They’re not expensive. And pay attention to graters: they get dull, and dull graters are how you end up retexturing your knuckles. Replace any dull tool that’s supposed to be sharp.

Left: Microplane; right: Box Grater


Not a lot to say here, other than that electric ones are for cat ladies. And without one, you’re going to have a hell of a time opening all the cans of San Marzano tomatoes you need for our recipes.

Can Opener


You feed a snake of dough in one side, turn the crank, and cavatelli spit out of the other. A brilliant invention. BeeBo cavatelli makers—our brand of choice—were first made by the Berarducci Brothers Manufacturing Company of McKeesport, Pa. The Berarduccis made cavatelli makers (and ravioli molds and tomato squeezers and all kinds of stuff) through the middle of the last century and then sold the design and name to Ohio-based VillaWare. Unfortunately, VillaWare stopped making the BeeBo in 2008. (We only found out while working on this book.) Fortunately, other cavatelli makers on the market these days are nearly exact copies. Look for models with wooden rollers, which are preferable to plastic ones, or look on eBay for vintage BeeBos—they come up all the time. One thing’s for sure: we would never make cavatelli without one. Our cavatelli recipe—which we learned from the pamphlet in the BeeBo box—is on page 100.

Cavatelli Maker


We like wooden cutting boards for dry stuff: cutting pasta, slicing bread, and any flour-based pastry projects. We like machine-washable boards for everything else. Why? Wood is absorbent. Would you cut raw meat on your telephone book?

Wood Cutting Board


There have been countless times—cooking at friends’ apartments or somebody’s rented beach house—that we’ve made do with nothing more than a set of cheap plastic-handled serrated knives purchased as part of an apartment starter set. But if you’re serious about cooking, having a few good knives is nice.

The rules for buying knives: avoid buying a department store set. (If you already have one, the rule is to keep them sharp.) Buy your knives one at a time and get to know a little about the knife you bought. Familiarize yourself with its characteristics—the thickness of the blade, the weight, etc.—and then use your impressions of that knife to inform the next purchase. Decide whether you want the next knife that you buy to be shorter, longer, heavier, whatever. Carbon steel blades are great—they take a good edge. But if you’re careless (meaning you don’t clean and dry your knives conscientiously), they will rust. Stainless steel won’t rust no matter how badly you treat it.

You might stick with one brand, or you may shop around. If there’s a cookware store near you that will let you handle the knives, to feel them in your hands before purchasing, shop there and test out a lot of blades. Never just buy a knife because it’s expensive. Figure out what you want in a knife and then go shopping for that.

The big three:

An 8-inch or 10-inch chef’s knife is good for all general chopping, slicing, and any vegetable cuts (medium dice, fine dice, etc.), and the side of the knife is good for crushing cloves of garlic. A chef’s knife that’s shorter than 8 inches is no good, because you have to rock up high to make your cuts, and anything longer than 10 inches is too long—too hard to sharpen evenly. Excellent, however, as a comedy prop.

A serrated knife is necessary for slicing bread and great for slicing tomatoes. No point in living without one. Offset serrated knives (there’s a kink where the blade meets the handle, giving you better leverage over the large blade) are a good choice.

A paring knife is there for shaping vegetables (trimming off unwanted bits, squaring off vegetables so they will be easier to cut with your chef’s knife). We don’t use paring knives on a cutting board—we like them for smaller tasks and for cutting stuff out of hand, grandma-style, like slicing a peach.

If you’re going to get one more, buy a 10-inch slicing knife to round out the selection. With a long blade and a thin belly, it’s an ideal knife for slicing big pieces of meat, like the rib eye on page 148 and the pork roast on page 149.

If you want your knives to stay sharp and don’t have some local Geppetto who can sharpen them for you, get a waterstone. These are sold in different grits, much like sandpaper, and you want #1000. Soak the thing in water for a few hours before using it. Remove the stone from the water, but keep the basin nearby. Have a rag or some paper towels on hand and a bowl of clean water when you set out to sharpen your knives. Use your fingers to flick water over the top of the stone to wet it, then, being careful to keep the knife at a steady, consistent angle (between 20 and 30 degrees to the stone) and applying a steady, even pressure along the blade, draw it back and forth across the stone. After a few passes, wipe away with the rag the slurry of grit that will have accumulated on the blade, rewet the stone, and repeat. Give each side of the knife a few passes.

And don’t believe the hype that serrated knives can’t be sharpened; we do it all the time. We see serrated knives as future slicing knives that just have to be sharpened a couple hundred times and worn down.

A clam knife (we like the Dexter) has a flat, thin, dull blade. We’ve seen cooks use a sharp paring knife instead of a clam knife. To each his own, as long as you remember that the cutting board in this particular operation happens to be your hand, and if you miss your mark, well … it’s your hand. So get a clam knife, or don’t blame us.

Chef’s Knife

Serrated Knife

Paring Knife

10-inch Slicing Knife

Clam Knife


One of each should cover it. A big ladle, one that can scoop up four ounces at a time, is a good all-purpose model. And a not-too-big, not-too-stiff, not-too-soft, and not-too-heavy whisk is ideal. It’s a Goldilocks situation: you’ve got to try out a few at the store to see what feels right in your hand. Beyond that, buy an all-metal whisk. Wooden handles are cute but harder to wash thoroughly, and they tend to wear out before the rest of the whisk.

Ladle & Whisk


Stainless steel is the best. The bigger the bowls, the better, and the more, the merrier. Get a set of three or four or five nesting bowls at a kitchen-ware store and then augment them with one or two really, really big bowls—big enough to wash a baby in kind of big. They’ll seem excessive until you try to make pasta and salad for too many people. Then you’ll be thankful.

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl


Palette knives—the 10-inch-long models—are typically used for frosting cakes; they’ll be available in the baking section of any kitchenware shop.

Back in the eighties, you couldn’t find an aspiring cook in France who didn’t have one—a little three- or four-inch model—in his knife kit. It was the most fashionable thing to flip a scallop with.

And we think—little or big—the thin, firm “blade” (it is dull on both sides) makes a palette knife the nicest tool for cutting gnocchi. You could use a butter knife, but we think it’s worth the $3 to get one of these.

Palette Knife


Worth the (small) investment if you have any interest in making fresh pasta at home. Atlas is our favorite manufacturer for stainless-steel hand-cranked models, though if you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, you could opt for the motorized roller attachment they make for the machine. It’s a good way to make the mixer more versatile.

Most pasta machines will come with one cutting attachment that has two settings—thin for linguine, wide for fettuccine. Start with that. If you find that you’re regularly making fresh pasta, reward yourself with an additional attachment, like one for pappardelle and spaghetti.

Find instructions for how to make fresh pasta on page 94.

Pasta Machine


Do not pass Go without two: one for black pepper, one for white pepper. They will make all the difference. Look for Peugeot pepper mills, the brand you see in every great kitchen in France (Peugeot’s home turf) and around the world. The gears of their grinders are made the same way they were when the company started out, back in 1842. Peugeot grinders finely crush the peppercorns rather than mash them like other cheaper mills made with plastic gears will do. Plastic and pepper were never meant to be friends.

Pepper Mill


There’s always quality to be considered when you’re talking about pots. Aluminum pots are crap. Don’t buy them. Copper pots are the best if you can afford them.

Good heavy stainless steel does the trick every time. Brand-wise, we think All-Clad makes the best American pots and pans, and Sitram does a killer job if you’re down with buying French. Both are expensive; if you’re looking for an affordable, long-lasting, and reliable brand, track down a restaurant supply shop that stocks WinCo.

As far as which pans, you’ve probably got some already. You could conquer the world with two skillets, a 10-inch and a 14-inch; one 3- or 4-quart sauté pan (like a skillet but with higher straight sides); one 5-quart sautoir; and one or two stockpots. (With two you can boil water for pasta in one and make the Sunday sauce in the other.)

Pots & Pans


Get one or two: 8 by 10, 9 by 12, it doesn’t really matter. For lasagna, tiramisu, etc., enameled cast iron or quality glazed ceramic is the best. Look for a pan that feels heavy for its size.

Baking Pan


Baking sheets, essentially. But you want the heavy-duty aluminum rimmed ones from the restaurant supply store. The size you’re looking for is called a “half sheet pan.” (Full sheet pans are too big for most home ovens.) Use them for roasting, baking, oven browning, even storing stuff on. Sheet pans are one of the most versatile and useful items in the kitchen.

Sheet Pan


A no-brainer. Makes washing and drying greens—and drying the excess water off of the leaves is really the challenge—impossible to mess up. See page 66 for instructions on using it.


Digital scales are excellent but expensive; spring-loaded scales are cheaper and better looking. Whatever kind of scale you get, make sure it will measure at least 2 pounds and has a setting that allows you to zero it. (If you do get one with springs, never pick it up by the weighing tray: that will stretch out the springs and throw off the accuracy.) Scales are indispensable for portioning pasta (fresh or dry) and weighing ingredients that don’t lend themselves to being stuffed in a cup (like the right amount of fresh bread for meatballs).



Related but different. The sieve should be fine-meshed, for straining broths, etc. Water should run freely through the colander; it’s for washing fruits and vegetables and draining pasta. You need both.



Stand mixers are expensive, they take up counter or cupboard space when not in use. It is absolutely possible to manually do every job a stand mixer can do. But the time and energy you’re not expending kneading pasta—or the tennis elbow–like strain you’re saving yourself from by not hand-whipping cream or egg whites—seems like one of those trade-offs that’s worth a couple of weeks of instant ramen dinners. Mixers like the KitchenAid can also take on attachments like a meat grinder (for making sausage or grinding beef fresh for burgers or meatballs) that give it even more versatility. If you’re deciding between a food processor, a blender, and a stand mixer for a big kitchen purchase, there’s no debate: the stand mixer will save you the most time and get the most use.

KitchenAid Mixer


Falcinelli likes the old-school EKCO stainless steel swivel-blade peeler—the kind you find in every pantry and supermarket and deli or hardware store. Castronovo likes the Swiss-made Zyliss Y peeler—the stirrup-shaped model—and says that the Swiss make a better blade. Whatever kind of peeler you end up with, use it for peeling vegetables or cutting thin curls of firmer cheeses to garnish pastas and salads.

Y Peeler


Dessert requires its own batterie de cuisine. Luckily, it can be purchased piecemeal: get a tart pan when you’re going to make a tart; the ramekins and torch when you’re having a party and want to impress friends with the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée (see page 166); and so forth.



  • “The ingredient lists are short, the recipes are simple, flavorful, and easy to follow.” 
    —New York Times

    “This witty guide showcases the ‘radically simple’ cooking philosophy of the chef-owners of Brooklyn's Frankies Spuntino. It presents pared-down Italian food full of flavor, not pretense.”
    –Bon Appétit

    “Everything I made from the book . . . was surprisingly easy and just as delicious as what I’ve eaten at the restaurants.”
    New York Times Book Review
    “A cookbook that's as useful as it is artfully conceived.”

    “The team behind the popular Brooklyn eatery divulges light Italian secrets in this beautiful tome worthy of any bookshelf.”
    –Entertainment Weekly

    "When we’re craving the comforts of red sauce classics, the Frankie’s cookbook is full of reliable recipes guaranteed to keep us satiated."
    —Time Out New York

    “The book is a perfect reflection of the Franks’ philosophy of making the past the hippest part of the present.”
    –Food Wine

    “This quirky, lovely, intelligent cookbook is worth reading from cover to cover than starting over again.”
    –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    “Unfussy ingredients . . . surprisingly sophisticated.”
    –Grub Street

On Sale
Jun 14, 2010
Page Count
256 pages

Frank Castronovo

Frank Castronovo

About the Author

Frank Castronovo trained with such culinary superstars as Jacques Pépin and France’s Paul Bocuse. In 2003, he opened Frankies 457 Spuntino with childhood friend Frank Falcinelli. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Frank Falcinelli has worked in Michelin two-star restaurants in France, with chefs Charlie Palmer and David Burke in New York, and was a partner and chef in the New York hot spot Moomba. He lives in Brooklyn with his French bulldog, Frankies mascot Merlin.

Peter Meehan is a food writer and former New York Times restaurant columnist. His most recent book is Momofuku, co-authored with the chef David Chang.

Learn more about this author