Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
8/18/2007 9:18:00 PM
Palermo street-snacks in Brooklyn! Yes, in the Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Ferdinando's serves Sicilian specialties not commonly seen on this side of the Atlantic.
Their specialty is the panelle, a fried chickpea fritter. If you're imagining falafel, the Middle Eastern chickpea fritter, you're actually pretty far off. These flat fritters have none of that falafel taste. The flavor is mild and beany. The preferred way to enjoy them is inside a Panelle Special, which is a freshly-baked sesame-topped semolina roll stacked with a sheaf of chickpea fritters, a big cloud of sweet and creamy ricotta, and a sprinkle of sharp cheese. The combo is terrific, mild and very easy to appreciate on a first taste.
They make a similar sandwich with a potato fritter standing in for the chickpeas, and this is equally delicious. Or you can go for the works, combining the potatoes and chickpeas on one roll. They are all reminders of just how much can be done with so little - true country cooking.
The small menu features other items from Sicily: vastedda is like the panelle, but spleen replaces the fritters; these, perhaps, are not quite as readily accessible to first-timers. There are the rice ball fritters called arancini, and you can get such Sicilian classics as tripe, or pasta with sardines or cuttlefish ink. Not everything is as exotic: there are also familiar items like Bolognese and marinara sauce, veal parmigiana, and meatball parm heroes.
Ferdinando's is a casual storefront with a counter up front, tables beyond, pressed tin ceiling, and even a courtyard out back. The folks who take care of you are sweet and encouraging. Prices are low. Ferdinando's is filled with Sicilian/Brooklyn soul. What more could you ask of Roadfood?