fig. a: Jacob Riis beach
Fort Tilden + Coney Island + Totonno’s + Franny’s
All the way down at the end of Flatbush Avenue, on a spit of land that also includes Rockaway Beach, you'll find Jacob Riis Park and, further west, Fort Tilden. Rockaway Beach you already know about (or, rather, I should say, "Rockaway Beach" you already know about). Jacob Riis Park has a big parking lot, a lovably ramshackle 18-hole golf course, a boardwalk, and some crazy, derelict architecture that reminded us more of Ostend and the North Sea than of any other beach we'd seen in North America. Fort Tilden's beaches are a bit of a walk, but things get more overgrown, a little wilder, even a little haunted, the lifeguards and the raked sand disappear, and the crowds thin out. It's a great place to commune with the mighty Atlantic, take in some sun, splash around in the waves, and share a Middle Eastern picnic from Sahadi's.
It's also just a few short miles from Coney Island.
fig. b: the original 1
Which means that when you're done splashing, it's a jump, skip, walk, and a drive to get a frankfurter or an order of clams...
fig. c: the original 2
...or, better yet, pay a visit to Totonno's, one of New York's great pizza shrines ("family owned since 1924"!), and you can sample what is perhaps the quintessential coal-oven pie and an leading exemplar of the "New York-Neapolitan" style.
fig. d: Totonno's cheese pie
I mean, just look at that thing. Two words: simple elegance. And a crust that's just phenomenal. Totonno's now has two locations in Manhattan, but the Neptune Ave. joint is the original and it doesn't get any more classic.
What better way to close out the day than with return visit to our friends at Franny's to have some more pizza? This was visit #4 for me, and every time has been rock-solid. These guys are just so good, in every category. Check it out:
1. utterly perfect crostini topped with fava beans, cranberry beans, and mullet bottarga
2. house-made maccheroni with smoked fontina, spicy sausage, a sauteed cabbage, that only read "okay" to me when I saw it on the menu, but which tasted like one of the top 5 (top 3?) pasta dishes I've ever had in my life--who knew?
3. three truly superb pizzas: tomato, anchovies, chilies, capers, and pecorino sardo; that legendary clam pie; and a cherry tomatoes, ricotta, and salami number
4. and if that wasn't enough, two truly outstanding desserts: a panna cotta with strawberries that someone two night earlier at Beer Table had told us had to be tasted to be believed (he was right: we've tasted and now we believe!) and a chocolate sorbetto that was a chocolate lovers' greatest summertime fantasy come true.
5. oh, yeah: and don't forget about their Negronis...
See what I mean?
fig. e: coffee cake, Bklyn Larder
Bklyn Larder + Pulino’s + Milk Bar
We had such a good time at Franny's on Sunday night that we decided to visit their newest addition to the family, Bklyn Larder, the very next morning. Their ricotta & wilted greens sandwich, I've already told you about, but their peach coffee cake was something new to us, and it was a thing of beauty: moist, delicious, and bursting with peach flavor. In an earlier post, I mentioned a cross-section of the offerings at Bklyn Larder, but did I mention their beer selection? Well, it's excellent, and you know that Popperings Hommel ale I mentioned the other day? You can find it here (for a fraction of the price it cost at Beer Table), along with dozens of other fine brews, both European and North American.
fig. f: Pulino's, street-side
The next day we had to leave by midday. Just enough time for one last breakfast, brunch, or lunch. How about a breakfast pizza? Seriously. Nate Appleman's Pulino's opens its doors early (8:30 am) so they can start serving their breakfast pizzas. We had the idea that this might be the right way to finish yet another one of our frenzied pizza tours of New York, but by the time we got there they'd already switched over to their lunch menu. Too bad, really, because we were looking forward to that salsiccia (eggs, sausage, bacon, mozzarella, and white cheddar). Oh, well. We soldiered on, ordering a mixed greens salad with a tangy red wine vinegar & crème fraîche dressing and a smoked ricotta, cherry tomatoes, and basil pie.
Appleman has definitely taken some lumps from New York's pizzarati for his "bar pizza," with its exceedingly thin, cracker-like crust,* and for his unconventional slicing. We had to agree about the slicing. When you slice up your pie in that tic-tac-toe grid style, what are you supposed to do with that square middle slice? But, as for the pie itself, we found the crust had a surprising amount of chew and flavor, considering how thin it was, and the toppings and the outer crust were both choice. At the very least: we'd had pizzas from three different New York pizzerias in the space of 18 hours, all of them in widely divergent styles, all of them well worth a visit.
Remember to take into consideration that while Nate Appleman is in charge of the kitchen, Pulino's is very much a Keith McNally establishment, with all that entails. This means the interior design is emphatic, to say the least (check out the sheer number of liquor bottles that line the south wall). And nights at Pulino's are said to be a mob scene. Lunch on a Monday was downright mellow, by comparison, so if you're pie-curious, that might be the time to go.
One last stop: Milk Bar, to pick up some fuel for the trip.
Totonno's, 1524 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn (Coney Island), (718) 372-8606
Franny's, 295 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn (Park Slope), (718) 230-0221
Bklyn Larder, 228 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn (Park Slope), (718) 783-1250
Pulino's, 282 Bowery, New York, (212) 226-1966
* Some have said matzo-like. Either they're being mean or they've got a line on some exceedingly good matzo, the likes of which we've never tasted.