A local culinary institution since Sandy Harris’ parents first opened in 1967, Frankie’s Italian Cuisine is enjoying a turn with the third generation as well.
“In Napoli, where love is king, when boy meets girl, here’s what they say…When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”
What Dean Martin so soulfully crooned about in 1953 is alive and well in Westlake, Ohio. At Frankie’s Italian Cuisine, great heaping helpings of hand-made specialties that you will simply “amore” are served up, from their award-winning pizzas to a host of pasta dishes featuring chicken, veal, seafood and, of course, plenty of Italian meats and sausage.
“All of our recipes are from the family, lovingly perfected by my grandmother, father and mother,” says owner Sandy Harris, who has been part of the cooking process since she was four.
A local culinary institution since Sandy’s parents Barb and Frank Fusco first opened in 1967, this familia-run business is enjoying a turn with the third generation as well. Sandy’s daughters, Francesa and Ariana, now work at the restaurant.
“Our staff has been with us for so many years, they feel like family, too,” says Sandy, whose license plate reads “Da Mama.”
In 2009, Sandy moved the eatery to its current location in a charming brick home dating back to the 1800s. She said her inspiration for the new site was “a little Italian bistro like the ones you see in Chicago or NYC.”
“With just 10 tables, there’s a homey feeling people keep coming back for,” says Sandy. “There are already so many huge restaurants in Westlake. For me, this welcoming house is going back to my roots. It reminds me of the first Frankie’s location in an old red brick building in North Olmsted, which also had 10 tables.”
In keeping with the bigger-is-not-always-better philosophy, Frankie’s is colorfully decorated with oil paintings of Italian villages and seasides, a trellised ceiling and frescoed walls.
The fenced-in patio is home to one of the most happening happy hours in town, featuring half-price appetizers and drink specials daily from 1 to 6 p.m. Twinkling white lights keep the dining action going well after dark. A full selection of wines, martinis, hand-squeezed lemonade cocktails with flavored vodkas and “skinny” drinks provide a nice complement to the rich food.
Consistent winner of the “Best Pizza” award from Cleveland Magazine, Frankie’s pizza is truly in a class by itself.
Dough is hand-tossed daily, crisp on the outside and velvety soft on the inside. And the sauce is a study in balance—not too spicy, not too sweet, loaded with herbs. The spotlight is on bringing out the bright flavors of fresh tomatoes.
“Margherita is one of our most popular pizzas,” notes Sandy. “The recipe is from Naples (where my family came from), and I have visited for culinary inspiration. We start with crispy thin crust and top it with loads of vine-ripened tomatoes, fragrant basil and buffalo mozzarella cheese.”
The newest kid on the block is already garnering rave reviews. Italian Meatlover’s Pizza is a savory mélange of succulent meatballs, capicola, Italian sausage, pepperoni and crispy bacon.
“People say our pizzas and sauces are impossible to re-create,” says Sandy, laughing. “I have shipped them overnight all over this country and even to South America to customers who have moved away and call us missing a taste of home.”
In addition to the signature “pies,” Frankie’s is undeniably famous for its house salad. A meal in itself, it brings together a generous plateful of iceberg lettuce with carrots and red cabbage, topped with a mouthwatering mound of shredded provolone and tangy sweet and sour celery seed dressing. Simplicity itself.
A host of veal and chicken dishes include one of the eatery’s most popular entrees, Chicken Tosca, which includes tender chicken breast lightly floured with Parmesan cheese, dipped in egg and sautéed in fresh garlic and a lemon white wine sauce, served with pasta.
Now that’s amore!
Frankie’s Italian Cuisine is located at 27828 Center Ridge Road, in Westlake. They also provide catering services, carryout and will deliver within a five-mile radius. For more information, call 440-892-0064 or visit www.frankiesnortholmsted.com.