Well Done: Franco’s Italian Caffe
Franco clearly hasn’t lost his touch. Opening his first restaurant in the Valley in 1987 to well-deserved acclaim, Franco remains the consummate restaurateur by staying true to what he knows best – authentic Italian cuisine coupled with his emphasis on excellent service.
The new restaurant is much smaller and warmer than his restaurant at the Esplanade – a welcome change. It is truly a “caffe,” more intimate and warm. Still a white-tablecloth restaurant, you feels that you will see someone you know, and certainly be welcomed like a returning friend by Franco.
The interior of the new Franco's is warm and friendly.
Indeed, Franco warmly greeted us and led us to a corner table allowing us to easily converse. Once cocktails were ordered, the list of specials was articulately presented by our server.
We started with homemade sausages, sautéed with peppers and onions – my husband’s favorite (not on the menu), as well as a platter of fresh Burrata and roasted bell peppers, and an order of prosciutto and remarkably sweet melon – both abundant in portion size. Although concerned that we had over ordered, it didn’t stop us from “licking the platters clean.”
While homemade sausages and sauteed peppers are not on the appetizer menu, an array of antipasti includes options from two different bruschettas to Filet Mignon Salsa Verde.
Dinner included Veal Picatta – veal scallops, lightly sautéed with a wonderful sauce accented with lemon, capers, tomatoes and herbs. A baby chicken (Poussin), butterflied and roasted, flavored with garlic and rosemary, accompanied by roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach was flavorful and moist, although a wee bit difficult to manipulate for those unwilling to eat with their hands. Perhaps removing a few of the bones might have made the job a little easier. Veal Milanese, a lightly breaded veal chop, topped with a light sauce and fresh vegetables was tender, juicy and very flavorful.
I had ordered the Pasta De Mare, linguini with shrimp, baby clams, calamari and sea bass in a light tomato sauce. While good, the portion size was easily enough for two. I would suggest ordering a half portion unless you have a large appetite. And, be forewarned; ask your server what the accompaniments come with your entrée. Chances are additional side dishes are redundant.
One of Franco’s specialties is the Merenghata – a cake comprised of layers of meringue, filled and topped with almond semifreddo (a custardy ice cream), finished with toasted almonds and crushed meringue. Surprisingly, despite its richness, it is not cloying. Traditionally served at Christmas in Italy, it was lovingly prepared by Franco’s grandmother every year. He has graced us with this incredible dessert daily. As if we hadn’t had enough to eat, we ordered two slices as well as Franco’s classic homemade cheesecake.
Service throughout was impeccable. Water was refilled regularly; food arrived warm and promptly. Our servers – and Franco – ensured we had everything we needed and response was rapid to any request.
Maybe the choices were too difficult; possibly, we were just hungry. Or perhaps, we simply remembered just how wonderful well-prepared, authentic Italian food can be. I offer a word of caution. Either come ready to eat, or think hard before ordering every enticing thing on Franco’s menu. While we ordered wine by the glass, be assured that the wine list is extensive and excellent.
Franco’s is open Monday through Saturday. It is located at 4327 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, just south of Drinkwater Boulevard. Online reservations will be available in April, but for now, call 480-481-7614. Valet parking is available.
Photos by Bruce Walters
Text by Susan L. Jones, a restaurant reviewer with a sophisticated palate and a frequent restaurant diner in the Valley and around the world. As Susan comes across noteworthy dining experiences, she will share them with azredbook.com readers.