Somewhere in Little Italy 

You Won’t Find a More Authentic Experience Than At Fratellino 

If you call to make a reservation at Fratellino Ristorante, don’t be surprised if every night for the next couple of weeks is booked. Just eight years old, this warm, cozy Italian eatery on Miracle Mile has created a cult-like following, and for good reason. It offers a reasonably priced, authentic experience of home Italian cooking, in an intimate space that makes you feel, as cliché as it sounds like you are part of the family. 

This is not high-end Haute Italian, but rather the experience of being in New York’s Little Italy, where proprietor Beto DiCarlo’s dad started in the business after he immigrated to America. DiCarlo learned the art of Italian cooking – along with the family recipes – from his father, but not in NYC; instead, he worked for 23 years
at the family’s upscale restaurant in Bal Harbour, Café Ragazzi. Fratellino, however, is his place, and it feels like the Little Italy of a Martin Scorsese film from the 1970s when places like Luna’s, Puglia, and Ferrara had white tiled floors and family photos on the walls. 

Owner Beto Dicarlo (Right) With Chef Carlos; in the Fratellino Restaurant
Owner Beto DiCarlo (Right) With Chef Carlos; in the Restaurant
Fratellino - like Little Italy

DiCarlo himself is a study in constant motion, greeting guests, carrying plates to tables, answering the phone, checking on the kitchen, and occasionally giving one of his waiters a friendly push to keep them moving briskly. Tall and lean, dressed in a cap and pullover sweater, he looks like he could be in an Italian classic movie, like “The Bicycle Thief ” or “Cinema Paradiso.” 

“People walk in and never expect this food,” says DiCarlo, which like any good Italian cuisine is made from simple but high-quality ingredients. “You walk in and think maybe this is a pizza place and then boom,” he says, gesturing with his hands. “You don’t have to overpay for good fancy food, that’s my motto. I want to serve the best food for the right price. That’s why we are booked every night.” 

And that food, most priced in the low- and mid-twenties, is a marvel. Fratellino’s eggplant involtini ($18) is stuffed with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and roasted peppers, and served in a pool of tomato sauce that is a pure delight, homemade from Italian Alta Cucina tomatoes. “We make the sauce ourselves, with a little carrot, three times a week,” says DiCarlo. “We make it and let it settle for twenty-four hours.” Likewise, Fratellino’s homemade gnocchi – potato with ricotta, drenched in a piquant four-cheese sauce – is simple yet intensely vibrant ($23). Likewise, the pappardelle with homemade Italian sausage, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach, olive oil, and fire roasted pepper ($27) is richly flavorful. Another case of fine dining disguised as family cooking. 

Little Italy - Fratellino Caprese Burrata
Caprese Burrata
Little Italy style Risoto
Risotto Alla Pescatora
Pappardelle With Sausage

If you want to step it up a notch, try the risotto alla pescatora ($38), a stellar dish of creamy risotto with jumbo shrimp and Chilean sea bass, lobster sauce, truffle oil, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Or go for their most expensive dish, the osso buco alla Milanese ($49), a veal shank slow cooked for four hours, on a bed of imported saffron risotto. A family (his dad’s) recipe that is also their top seller. 

RELATED STORY: Midday at Fratellino

Fratellino’s menu is not vast, but offers plenty of selection, with specials each day – which you can also order off menu if you know them. We tried a plate of fried mozzarella in vodka sauce with shitake mushrooms and peas – chewy, salty, and easily our favorite dish of the night (another original family recipe, according to DiCarlo). And while there are only four desserts, they are all winners, from “Grandma’s Famous” tiramisu ($9) to our favorite, an apple tart of homemade puff pastry, with thin-sliced green apples cooked in white wine and brown sugar, laced with homemade caramel sauce and served with vanilla gelato ($12). 

Risotto Alla Pescatora
Homemade Apple Tart

The setting is also comfortable, with overhead lighting dimmed just right at night, the walls peppered with family photos – including a large black and white of DiCarlo’s father and uncle as kids in Italy. DiCarlo himself is as comfortable with clientele as the seating is for diners, chatting amicably and joking about the ladies drinking wine at one table. “Be careful,” he says to the men. “The more they drink the better we look…” 

Food Photos by Manny Iriarte