Quick Bites: Cafe Franco’s
This summer locals and visitors alike will discover the number of Italian restaurants in the area has doubled. And The Voice plans to visit all of them — the old and the new.
We’ll start with one of the new establishments, Café Franco’s at The Dare Center in Kill Devil Hills. The unit was the former home of The Good Life Gourmet before it moved to Kitty Hawk.
Franco and Beverly Mineo are the owners, and Franco hails from Palermo in Sicily. The recipes are authentic Mineo family treasures. Many locals remember Franco from prior restaurants in Currituck County.
Open for lunch and dinner, Franco’s offers a pleasant atmosphere and most important, affordable prices, especially when compared to the average OBX eatery.
There are plenty of entrée items under $15.
When you enter the restaurant you will be greeted by a friendly hostess and served by a pleasant staff. The décor is very appealing — soft lighting, an open kitchen and comfortable booths and table seating.
The arrangement is spacious enough for privacy when eating. For solo diners there is also bar seating.
The Voice has visited Café Franco’s five times: three lunch trips and two dinner experiences. So far we have not been disappointed.
We’ll kick off with one of the most traditional offerings at Italian restaurants — pizza. Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes “authentic” Italian pizza and I consider myself to be a fairly good judge of pies, but I know some readers will disagree with my assessment.
Franco’s hand-tossed Sicilian-style pies pass the test. The dough is right where it should be — not thin and crispy like a cracker nor thick and chewy.
I tend to not be an adventurous pizza person, so I stick to sausage and pepperoni. I’ve tried both the personal lunch and full-sized versions and I absolutely love them. There is plenty of cheese, the stringy mozzarella that so many pizza places neglect.
And the sausage and pepperoni actually have a bit of a kick. These days I find many pizza places serving up bland sausage and pepperoni that do nothing other than add filler to the pie. The sauce is not only flavorful, it is portioned such that the pie is moist and not dry.
On a second visit I tried the Italian sub, again a winner, served on fresh bread with the traditional combo of meats and cheeses that make Italian subs among my favorites. Once again, the choice of meats makes a difference. I want my Italian sub to sing with flavor. Too many Italian subs in this area taste little different than if I had placed some Oscar Meyer cold cuts on a hoagie roll.
We then decided to try dinner with a group of four.
For an appetizer, we started out with pizza rolls. How good were they? There was one extra and when the rest of the table was distracted, I grabbed it. Once again, there was actual flavor in the roll, probably from using a spicier pepperoni.
Once again, I went for the simple choice — spaghetti with homemade meatballs. The sauce is a thin style, not the pasty, thick coverings that come in a jar. Made from fresh plum tomatoes, it also features hints of garlic and onion. The noodles were cooked perfectly.
The meatballs were huge and subtly spiced. Although I seldom finish an entire order of spaghetti at one sitting, I devoured the entire plate.
I’ve also noticed on Foursquare local mortgage banker Rich Rollason checks in often. Rich tends to check into the same places I do. He also had a high opinion of Franco’s and offered the following comment:
“The food is awesome. I’ve eaten most of the dishes there. His specials are generally outstanding. If I were going in for lunch I would get the manicotti with house salad and the homemade Italian dressing.”
Our arts and entertainment writer, Teuta Towler was upset when she found out we visited Franco’s without her. She loves the Tiramisu and wanted to contribute to this review.
The restaurant has more surprises in store. They will soon have their liquor license, and Beverly Mineo says to look for some signature drinks such as an Italian margarita, Amaretto sour and a Limoncello martini.
Look for homemade sangrias on Friday and Saturday.
Summer visitors can also order picnic baskets for pool and beach excursions. The baskets will include a sandwich, pasta, salads and other goodies.
Franco’s also offers a wide variety of Segafreddo coffees, espresso and cappuccino. The wine selection is modest but well paired with the menu, and of course, favors Italian varietals.
The Super Tuscan can be ordered by the glass and is a silky smooth blend with soft tannins predominately made from Sangiovese grapes.
I’ve added Franco’s to my ever-growing list of “regular” stops and we think locals and visitors alike will enjoy this little hideaway.
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