Giancarlo Zingaro and I rolled into Ferdinando's Focacceria in Brooklyn's Columbia Heights neighborhood just as the sky opened up. Francesco Buffa, the owner and chef, was by door and welcomed us in from the rain. The self styled "Cucina Siciliana" was founded in 1904 and appears as if it has hardly changed since the turn of the century. The tiled floors, copper ceiling, beautifully restored storefront, and vintage striped awning are straight out of Once Upon A Time in America.
I removed my fedora and signaled for a table for due. The lovely waitress sat us under a enormous map of Sicily and handed us the menu. Now for the hard part. There are so many delicious options on the menu. So we decided to order a sampling of the antipasti and go with the specials for entrees.
Arancia special (the rice ball stuffed with meat and peas covered with a generous portion of ricotta cheese, red sauce, and mozzarella), potato croquettes (deep fried smooth mashed potatoes mixed with parsley and spices), the panelle special(the chick pea fitters also covered with ricotta and pecorino), and pulpo all'insalata (cold octopus salad in a vinaigrette, garlic and spices)
I had the Pork chop pizzaiola with caviatelli and red sauce. Giancarlo opted for the Pollo Parmegiano with rigatoni stuffed with ricotta. The waitress promised the pork chop would be so tender that I wouldn't even need a knife. Naturally, I was skeptical, so she took my knife away and gave it to Giancarlo to "hold." Now I was in Sicilian restaurant sitting across from a Palermo FC ultra in possession of two knives! I didn't like the odds but who could argue with the truth. The chop was buttery and so soft I could cut it with a fork! Meanwhile, GZ could barely finish the sublime stuffed rigatoni and chicken parm dish. We washed the feast down with a robust Nero D'Avola.
As we finished up with espressos, the rain subsided so we paid the check and headed to the next destination. We walked a few blocks in the crisp early March air and grabbed a taxi. We were heading east to Prospect Heights to check out the new speakeasy appropriately named Weather Up.
More on that later.