Franny’s Last Night in Town
Scenes from the closing of my neighborhood restaurant.
It’s just a few days after Franny’s — the beloved Park Slope institution and purveyors of fine Neapolitan pizza — announced it is closing after 14 years.
I am crushed. Despondent. And so it is on my way home from work on a Monday night that I decide to stop in for a glass of wine and a pizza to sit shiva.
The doors don’t close for another month (August 20th, I’m told), but from the crowd outside you could be forgiven for thinking it was already their very last night. I wait 15 minutes just to put my name in.
I’ve only lived in the neighborhood for two years but Franny’s already feels like home. It’s a block from my apartment. The food is stellar. The service is wonderful. The atmosphere is good for everything. Franny’s is, in my small corner of New York, a place that feels like mine. It’s a feeling that is, judging by the crowd, shared by basically everyone who’s ever eaten here.
It’s buzzy and loud inside, but it’s not Lower East Side buzzy. It’s buzzing. Like a party for dear friends who have just written their Why I’m Leaving New York essay, holding a get-together before they head out of town, apartment covered in boxes, drinking out of plastic cups because the good stuff is packed up already. It’s sad but warm and celebratory. It’s an Irish wake.
Why are they closing? I don’t know. It’s busy all the time. And it’s not like they’re giving the food away — a Margherita pizza will set you back $21 (it’s too soon to speak ill of the dead, but it does seem like everything on the menu is roughly $3 more than it should be). But people come all the same! Maybe they just want some time off after running a restaurant for 14 years. Who could blame them.
Tonight, those of us waiting for a table share stories about Franny’s, collectively ponder about why they’re closing, and kibitz about our orders (and have you had their clam pizza? and we’ve been coming here since they opened fourteen years ago).
Mourners have come from across town to pay their respects, but I’m presently surrounded by my neighbors. A well-heeled dad in his 50’s wearing Common Projects is there for dinner with his teenage son. “This restaurant is as old as you are,” he says. It opened the year they moved to Park Slope. I look over his shoulder and realize that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard are waiting for a table, too. Their younger daughter is presently sticking her fingers in Maggie’s nose and no one notices. Peter Sarsgaard is wearing birkenstocks. Franny stops by to say hello.
I manage to grab Franny before she heads back to check on the kitchen. I blurt out my thanks, tell her how much the restaurant feels like a second home. She asks for my name. She introduces herself. “I’m Franny.”
As I wait for a seat at the bar to open up, a magazine writer assigned to profile the closure strikes up a conversation. He has never been here. I gush. “Is it a date spot?” No…. but it’s not not a date spot. “What is it?” It’s a place you take people from out of town. Or when you want a good pizza. Or when you just want to feel at home by yourself. He nods. I’m not totally sure he buys it. He prefers Manhattan.
“What’s good?” All of it, I snap. But the charcuterie (have you had the lardo? it’s funky). The faro salad is weirdly good for faro. The pizzas, duh. (Which ones? All of them—obviously.) The calzone! Whatever, just get all of it.
By the time I sit down, holding a book I will never read more than two pages of tonight, my favorite bartender greets me like he’s known me for years. After a few minutes of shared commiseration (“so sad!” “a bummer!” “the best”), he rushes back to take care of the other 100 people who he also knows and loves.
Two exceedingly friendly industry folk sit next to me at the bar. They’re just a few sips into their Negronis when they order a bottle of wine, too — an intentionally obscure order (“something that makes me feel like a kid again, without the tannins”) for laughs with the bartender, who serves up the very last bottle they have of… something excellent? “It’s from the border of France and Italy, but the grapes were grown on the Italian side, and oh you just have to try it to really know.” It is, oddly, charming and not obnoxious—friends having fun in the last throes of an era. Franny’s is winding down so not only are they running out of wine, they are running out of almost everything — even a few digestifs that have lined the top of the bar, normally dusty and untouched for months at a time, are already missing.
Five minutes later, my new bar companions are offering me their appetizers (a delicious pole bean salad and fried green tomatoes) for no explainable reason. Grief brings out the weirdest sides of people. The pole beans go great with my tears.
To my right, a middle-aged couple can’t telling me how long they’ve been coming here and how much they’re going to miss it. They’re comforted by the prospect of Joe Campanale (of Dell’amina) taking over, but they also think I look like Joe Campanale so I suspect they’ve been over-served. (Plus, what does it portend about the block’s future that a Soul Cycle just went in next door?)
🎵 Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone. 🎵
I head back to my rosé (I know, I know) which, true to Franny’s form, is a little bit funky, and my pizza has just arrived—the buffalo mozzarella so gooey and wet it slides off the paper-thin crust if you’re not careful.
And it is good pizza. But that’s not what makes Franny’s… Franny’s. It’s the pizza, and the wine, and the service, and the way it’s never too loud and never too quiet and you never get rushed for your check and… it’s everything else the place.
I finish my meal, grab my bag, say my goodbyes to my servers, my new friends, and to Franny, and head out into the summer night. It might have the air of closing night, but there’s still more than a month left. So for another 34 dinners, you know where to find me: At Franny’s last night in town.