Food: 'Za or No 'Za

Despite the town’s many charms and attractions, finding a family sit-down lunch place in downtown Brattleboro has never been easy. You’re in fine shape for dinner and there are a couple of breakfast places, but if you’re not in the mood for bagels (the town has two such sandwich makers), lunch can be a challenge.

There are a number of options a short drive away—the Chelsea Royal Diner in West Brattleboro or the newly rebuilt Marina north of town are two that come to mind—but if you’re on foot, can’t find the Backside Café, and aren’t in the mood for Korean at the Shin-La, Frankie’s is it.

Like the other two venerable restaurants, Frankie’s Pizza has been a fixture in town for more than 20 years. Time and tastes have done in many other local eateries during that period—and most recently floods and a fire have dealt blows to others—but this slightly strange pizza joint has kept on welcoming customers in and sending them on their way satisfied.

The restaurant has moved from its hole-in-the-wall location behind the Harmony parking lot and now has a brighter, more prominent position on Elliot Street, across from McNeill’s Brewery.

On a recent visit one Monday afternoon, the place basked in bright sunlight and good cheer. While the restaurant offers takeout, many of the booths were occupied. My wife and I sat behind a pair of guffawing teen boys working on a pair of grinders. Across from us an elderly couple were finishing up a pizza colorful with veggies.

The restaurant is on the Brattleboro Gallery Walk and currently is exhibiting the artwork of Jill Severance, a sometimes waitperson there. The simple, surreal cartoons often feature food themes, and their nonsensical charm works well with the laidback but vivid style of the funky restaurant.

Featuring whole wheat crusts and a blend of mozzarella and cheddar for cheese, Frankie’s pizza is the cornerstone offering on the menu. Along with traditional varieties of cheese and sauce, it offers a selection of more exotic styles—taco pizza, buffalo bleu chicken pizza, and gyro pizza, to list a few. There’s also a gluten-free variety that the waitress said was popular.

We ended up foregoing the ‘za. My wife ordered a serving of the lasagna; I had a straight-up gyro and an order of fried pickles.

In the former location, interaction between staff and customers was confined to a small window counter at the back of the restaurant; the new setup is much more open and the well-appointed kitchen is on view. In the face of steady lunchtime business, the waitress remained friendly and attentive and the cook didn’t seem harried as he kept the orders coming steadily.

I enjoyed the fried pickles, though they could have been tangier and less coated with batter. My gyro was ample and exactly what I’d hoped for. The surprise was my wife’s lasagna. The meat sauce was outstanding—not watery or too sweet, but a flavorful blend of ground beef and roasted vegetables. We enjoyed it both at lunch and for dinner at home that night.

Frankie’s is located at 75 Elliot Street in Brattleboro. Basic Italian and Greek lunch fare. Beer and wine served. Currently cash-only.

Author: Mark Roessler

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