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Frankies 17 Spuntino is one of those places I have wanted to eat in for a few years, but didn't get around to until Saturday. And with only 24 seats, this has to be one of the smallest restaurants in Manhattan.
Getting a table isn't the only potential problem. The Lower East Side (photo) also is a hard place in which to find a legal parking space. In fact, I dropped off my wife and son at the restaurant, searched in vain for a space, then returned to pick them up and was driving away when a space opened up three cars away. (From the casual way some New Yorkers get into their cars and fiddle around for 5 minutes before driving away, you'd think they own the space.)
Our waitress said "spuntinos" are snacks and spuntino is a place to eat snacks, but you'll find soups, sandwiches, salads and entrees on the menu, plus 11 cheeses. Frankies refers to two chefs with the same first name.
We were starving when we got there and fell on the plate of crusty, charred bread and small bowl of unfiltered extra virgin olive oil the waitress gave us after we ordered. Delicious.
We started with a lentil with smoked bacon soup for my son, escarole and cannelini bean soup for my wife and a cold roasted vegetable salad for me. Soups are $7, the salad $10. We loved out starters, but the salad of beets, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables with balsamic vinegar would have tasted even better warmed up.
Our entrees, which we shared, were three meatballs with pine nuts and raisins ($10) and homemade papardelle with braised lamb ragu ($19). There was a lot of good gravy, or tomato sauce, with the meatballs, but the lamb ragu was thin and could have used some tomato. Our half carafe of the house wine -- Montepulciano d'Abruzzo -- was $14 and yielded about three glasses.
We finished with a slice of aged Sardinian goat cheese ($4) for me and creme brulee ($6) for my son, who raved it tasted of marshmellows. The dense cheese was served with walnuts in honey and two slices of that great bread. With tax and tip, this meal cost $95. Service was casual.
The restaurant is small but came off better than the raucous Casa Mono, Maria Batalli's tapas place, where four people are jammed into tables Frankies uses for two.
Frankies 17 Spuntino, 17 Clinton St., Manhattan;
212-253-2303; open seven days from 11 a.m.