Frank Pepe’s, a famous Italian restaurant in New York, is located in Brooklyn near the harbor. The location is elegant and charming at night. The chandeliers placed strategically throughout the several dining rooms highlight the elegance of the drapes and the tables. The contemporary, stylistic dinnerware are admittedly non sequiturs in what would otherwise be a well-organized, classical venue.
I ordered from the six course chef’s tasting menu. Served with artisan breads, the first course introduced my palette to oil-balsamic vinegar concoction that the restaurant dare called dipping oil. Motor oil would have been a more appropriate name for it. There were hints of oregano, though no spices were present in the translucent emulsification. The second course was much better; ricotta cheese mixed with fresh parsley and basil filled tortellini shells which were bathed in a light Vodka sauce. The cheese was fantastic and the fresh herbs brought out the flavor of the Vodka sauce. However, the tortellini, like almost every pasta cooked in the United States, was overcooked, though only slightly. Frank Pepe’s just missed the al dente mark.
The third course was a refreshing spring salad with figs, strawberries, and artichoke hearts in an Italian vinaigrette. It was unoriginal and I could have sword I had had the exact salad at a local Olive Garden or Fazoli’s. The strawberries overwhelmed the salad, as strawberries tend to do when in bunches. The artichoke hearts still tasted like artichoke hearts, despite the heavy dressing. The greens were fresh, which were very nice after the pasta dish. The fourth course was the star of the night. A thinly sliced veal chop, slightly breaded and deep fried, and served on top of a bed of angel hair pasta with tiny slivers of Marzano tomatoes, basil leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, and chives. Somehow, Frank Pepe’s allowed me to enjoy angel hair pasta, which in Italia is eaten only by people too hold to have functioning teeth. The pasta was a perfect al dente and the veal was perfect—a word I thought that I would never use to describe food. The vegetable dressings on the pasta were pleasant, as the homemade angel hair stood out on its own.
The fifth course could, naturally, only be worse. The fourth course put on such a sensational show that I was left wanting more as I began on the fifth, which was a soup, of all things. Granted, this was a slow cooked onion soup with top-notch gruyere and aged cheddar cheeses with crispy, buttery croutons. Still, the dish paled in comparison with its predecessor. The cheeses were great, as were the croutons, but the onions were far too sweet. The grand finale of this elegant meal was a simple chocolate Gelato. Simple as it was, the Italian version of ice cream was rich enough for Wall Street, yet neither the cream nor the sweetness were overbearing. I would certainly recommend Frank Pepe’s, if only for the angel hair pasta.