Before you go to a new restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In this new series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened Resy restaurants.
First up is Francie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, opening Dec. 4. And in a notable pandemic move, it’s only open for indoor dining, and will offer takeout later this month.
1. Yes, the name is a literary reference…
The restaurant is named after Francie Nolan, the main character in Betty Smith’s beloved classic novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” who grows up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the early 1900s. “It’s about her struggles and triumphs of growing up in Williamsburg, and how this neighborhood was back then,” says Francie chef-owner Chris Cipollone. “And that’s kind of where we are, how we’re also trying to persevere in Williamsburg, too.”
Fun fact: When you first enter Francie, you’ll see a mural painted by Cipollone’s brother-in-law, Esao Andrews. It depicts Francie Nolan, holding a cornucopia of a farmers’ market haul.
2. But the restaurant was almost called something else.
It was almost named “Trust” — an homage to the building’s former life as a bank office. There’s still a tiny nod to that name on the host stand, where you’ll see the word “trust” printed prominently on the front, thanks to a miscommunication with the designer.
3. OK, about that space.
Francie lays claim to an incredible room, set in a building built in 1901 out of limestone. Since then, it’s been home to a number of different businesses but most recently was a bank. The team took great pains to preserve and restore the façade.
But the restaurant can’t accommodate outdoor dining, and chose to roll out takeout later this month, so the Francie team is starting by only offering indoor dining for up to 30 guests. (That “trust” idea rings in more ways than one, right?)
Because the restaurant was under construction when the pandemic struck this spring, they were able to install special air purifiers throughout the space and a new HVAC system. (Read more about Francie’s safety measures here.)
4. Some well-known folks are behind it.
The ownership group consists of chef Christopher Cipollone, operator John Winterman, and partner Mark Norbom.
Cipollone is a native New Yorker who worked in the kitchens of the now-closed Piora and Tenpenny, and was recently the executive chef of San Francisco’s Cotogna. Winterman is a New York City hospitality veteran, having worked for nearly a decade for Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group, and co-owning Michelin-starred Bâtard in Tribeca. Both Winterman and Cipollone have known each other for a long time; Cipollone even used to buy specialty Korean ingredients from Winterman’s wife, Jiyun Jennifer Yoo of Gotham Grove, when he was at Piora.
5. Then there’s the food (!).
Cipollone describes Francie as a modern brasserie, and the menu reflects his background in Italian, French, and even Korean cuisines. While he always had a brasserie concept in mind, the pandemic convinced him to focus on dishes that might be hard to whip up in your own home kitchen, like soufflé cakes with seaweed butter, or a non-traditional duck rillette. Instead of using confit duck legs for his rillette, Cipollone blends the duck meat with a duck mousse and breads it. Everything is then fried in duck fat. (See the full opening menu here.)
The chef’s most personal dish on the menu, though, is a market salad, something he’s had in some form at every restaurant he’s worked at. “It’s a reflection of myself and the chefs walking through the greenmarket, and selecting all the vegetables, coming back, and cooking them in different ways and arranging them on a plate,” he says. This time around, his salad features a dusting of dried dressing — “so you can actually taste the vegetables instead of having some dressing all over them.”
Restaurant Daniel veteran and La Paulée partner Raj Vadya consulted on Francie’s wine list. Marcie Andersen leads the bar program with updated classics, like the Sour Francie (Four Roses bourbon, citrus, egg whites, and a red wine float).
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