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Ferdinando's Focacceria Italiana Restaurant

151 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY - (718) 855-1545
Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle on 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?

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4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
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A Panelle Special is a small sandwich filled with flat chickpea fritters, fresh ricotta, and sharp cheese.  These are more snack-sized, but two could make a meal.
"A Panelle Special is a small sandwich filled with flat chickpea fritters, fresh ricotta, and sharp cheese. These are more snack-sized, but two could make a meal."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle





Cut in half, you can see the layers of fritter on the bottom.  The creamy ricotta actually makes a stronger impression than the fritters.
"Cut in half, you can see the layers of fritter on the bottom. The creamy ricotta actually makes a stronger impression than the fritters."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


There is also a version made with a potato croquette, equally tempting.  The tide of ricotta is extraordinary.
"There is also a version made with a potato croquette, equally tempting. The tide of ricotta is extraordinary."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The short menu lists a treasure trove of Sicilian specialties we can't wait to try.  Click on the photo for a readable view.
"The short menu lists a treasure trove of Sicilian specialties we can't wait to try. Click on the photo for a readable view."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Carroll Gardens is not quite the Italian neighborhood it once was, but Ferdinando's remains from an earlier time.
"Carroll Gardens is not quite the Italian neighborhood it once was, but Ferdinando's remains from an earlier time."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle



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