The first time I rented a school bus and escorted a group of people to a series of pizzerias was October 2007. It was my 26th birthday. Friends loved eating pizza with me because I’d give them all sorts of insight into what was going on inside the oven and with the ingredients. In hindsight, I have no idea what I was even telling them because I knew relatively little about pizza making at the time. I’d read a few books and asked the right questions when a pizza maker seemed willing to chat – I even had a subscription to Pizza Today Magazine thanks to my brother Jon, who ordered it for me as a joke (now I write for them).
Living in New Jersey at the time, I would often lead day trips to nearby places like Philadelphia, Trenton, New Haven, Brooklyn, etc. So many people would ask if they could join the outings but my car only fit 4-5 people, so I had to think of a way to eat pizza with everybody who expressed interest as efficiently as possible. I asked around and found a company that chartered school buses, then invited a bunch of friends to join me on a route of NYC pizzerias.
There were 26 of us that day, all gathered in front of Franny’s, which was located at 295 Flatbush Ave at the time. I don’t remember why I picked it as our meeting point, but that’s where we congregated. I called in advance to ask permission to pack the place immediately upon opening and that’s exactly what we did. I ordered a pizza Margherita or two for every table and told people all about how the oven was built in place by a 3rd generation Neapolitan oven builder.
Franny’s has since moved down the block to a larger space (the original location is now an excellent bar called Rose’s) and just today announced their closing at the end of the summer. August 20 will be their last day of service. Franny’s wasn’t just the first stop on my first organized pizza crawl, they were one of the gateway pizzerias that drove my interest in pizza in the first place.
Today we have droves of wood-fired pizzerias around the city, but in April 2004 there were very few. Most were Italian restaurants, not pizzerias. Franny’s took the wood-fired mentality and Neapolitan pizza inspiration but landed it as something completely unique. At the time, it was the only place doing what they were doing. Now we have Roberta’s and Paulie Gee’s and all kinds of places doing Neapolitan-inspired personal pies with local ingredients. It’s common now, but Franny’s was doing it first. To be frank, the popularity Franny’s has been completely dwarfed by the places it inspired. But that’s all part of the natural cycle.
I’m sad to see Franny’s close its doors. Fourteen years is a very solid run and I’m sure owners Franny and Andrew are extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished. The impact of this pizzeria is huge and I just hope people remember that when, not long from now, Franny’s will only be mentioned in the past tense.