My first visit to Fratello’s was an overwhelming one. With just two months under its belt, the market, pizzeria and deli was chockablock with a ravenous lunchtime crowd. After a 10-minute wait, we finally placed our order at the counter and then searched for a place to sit.
Several restaurants have occupied the address, most recently a Mexican restaurant, but it seems Fratello’s is making inroads with busy lunch-goers aching for a satisfying sandwich.
Owned by Robert Corbo, Dan Martinelli and Tony Magaro, Fratello’s kitchen is manned by chef Rick Perno, the original owner of Goomba’s Pizza.
Perno’s history in the industry dates back to age 14, when he helped his family run an Italian restaurant in Buffalo, NY. He’s been perfecting the art of wood-burning-oven pizza for some 20-odd years.
And it shows. The Neopolitan-style pizze (the plural of pizza as labeled on the menu) are crisp and tender, and sturdy enough to hold some serious ingredients. A crowd-favorite seems to be the Salame Piccante (a meat lover’s feast), but we ditched the cured meats in favor of the Quattro Formaggio, with provolone, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a hint of gorgonzola. The pie was tied together with a smattering of fresh basil leaves. Another standout was the Vegetali pizza. Heavy on the tender seasoned eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, red onions and roma tomatoes, the crunchy sweet taste of freshly grilled red bell peppers cemented the pie as a favorite.
Don’t just settle for familiar pizzas, as tasty as they are. The antipasti section offers a meat-heavy and mozzarella-stuffed arancini (Sicilian risotto balls), and other starters that are easily shared, but could serve as an entire meal. The Crostini Misti of grilled house-made bread came with three toppings: meaty wild mushrooms topped with Fontina cheese, a briny Sicilian olive mix and a to-die-for combination of roasted tomatoes and tiny mozzarella cubes.
Paired with a salad of mixed greens topped with the house dressing and generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the crostini are a steal at $7. The deli case is the origin for the Antipasto Fratello, an assortment of several cured meats (our plate came with a melt-in-your-mouth sampling of capocolla), cheeses, olives and greens.
The real stars of the lunchtime show (Fratello’s is nurturing a quiet dinner crowd) were the cold and hot sandwiches. Priced between $8 and $9, the Panini Freddi (cold) and Caldi (hot) are the culmination of everything Perno and staff are doing right. The house-made bread (baked daily) serves as a perfect vessel for the freshly sliced imported salumi, cheeses and veggies.
I can’t adequately describe how large these sandwiches are. Plated on casual plastic baskets, the Panini are sliced in half and are still daunting. Filled with Capocolla, ham, provolone, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and a light touch of oregano vinaigrette, the Napoli sandwich also contained some of the most vibrant banana peppers I’ve ever tasted.
One teensy flub came in the way of the Lombardo. Equally colossal, if not more so, the breaded chicken cutlet could have used a hint of salt. Still, the sizeable cutlet shared the inside of the baguette with fontina cheese, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula and a creamy basil aioli, so it was easy to overlook the lack of salt.
The sammies come with a hefty side order of delicately fried and, once again, house-made potato chips, sprinkled with crushed red pepper and Parmesan cheese worth the $8 price tag alone.
It’s hard to mention all of the ingredients used to create these dishes without going into the grocery side of Fratello’s Deli & Market. Three aisles stuffed with pantry goodies take up about a quarter of Fratello’s space. The first contains a rack of Italian wines along with canned tomato products, countless olive brands and other marinated bits. The second aisle is made up of just about every shape and form of pasta and several bottles of marinara sauce. Cannoli shells, olive oil, balsamic and house-made frozen ravioli on the third aisle are not to be missed.
As I wrapped up my last lunch visit on the patio, I noticed folks parking across Broadway and playing a serious game of Frogger to get to Fratello’s. Does that tell you anything about the quality of these eats?
Fratello’s Deli & Market
Best Bets The Vegetali pizza, the antipasto Fratello, the Napoli panini, house potato chips
The Skinny Backed by chef Perno’s 20-plus years of experience, Fratello’s Deli & Market delivers tasty pizzas and giant sandwiches, all made with quality ingredients.
Hours Market and pizzeria, 11 am-8pm Mon-Sat; Restaurant, 11am-2pm, 5-8pm Mon-Sat
Prices $7.50-$9.50 starters and sandwiches, $10-$12 pizza