Summer Puertollano Takes Writing In Stride
jason crombie: You’re New York born and bred, right?
frank prisinzano: I was born in Queens.
jc: And when did you open your first spot?
fp: I opened about my first place, Frank, in 1998. I took the lease in March and opened the restaurant in June. Then I expanded Frank—I added the bar next store, which we call Vera Bar, after my grandmother. Then we took Lil’ Frankie’s, what you see here, put the oven in and started making pizzas. Then I opened Supper right after. I actually signed the leases on Lil’ Frankie’s and Supper right before 9/11, so it was pretty crazy. Frank actually got busier after that because they closed the streets from 14th Street all the way down, so you couldn’t even drive a car. And since it’s a homey neighborhood, I guess people felt more comfortable there, because it was such a hard time for New York. So business went up like 20 percent. I hate to say it, but my business went up. I was very scared that I was going to have a hard time paying for these two spaces, but everything worked out.
I opened up Lil’ Frankie’s in January of 2002, and I opened up Supper in April of 2002. Then I added the backroom, then I added the bar at Supper, then I started East Village Radio. After that, I expanded and took the two stores next to here and broke through the wall and added the full kitchen and the full bar at East Village Radio over there. Then I opened up Mudspot on 9th Street with the Mud Coffee guys. Then I opened up Way, which is a French Vietnamese restaurant in the West Village on Charles and Bleecker. I was the chef. I did all the food.
jc: Is that your background? Did you cook at other restaurants before you started opening restaurants?
fp: I can cook anything. I started working when I was thirteen years old at a pizzeria—that was my first job. I’ve been in this business for 35 years, and before that I was working with my grandmothers cooking all of our meals—Thanksgiving, or whatnot. I was very interested in food. My grandmothers had a lot of family traditions and recipes, and since I was one of the only kids, I was always by their sides. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been cooking and I’ve been around food.
jc: How did you get started with East Village Radio?
fp: I wanted to give something back to the neighborhood. I had just opened up Lil’ Frankie’s and Supper, and both places had a line out the door, an hour-and-a-half wait. So I felt like I wanted to give something back to the neighborhood since a lot of the music scene was moving out to Brooklyn. I always thought that the East Village needed its own radio station, so we started a pirated radio station up in my office on 88.1. Then a regular client here at Lil’ Frankie’s caught wind of what I was doing, and he happened to write pieces for the NY Times. So he called me and said, “Hey, what’s going on with this radio station?” And I’m like, “What do you mean?” I was trying to play it down, and he was like, “Look man, I know about it. I’m going to write about it.” And I was like, “Dude, you’re going to close me down. You write about it and you’re going to close us down.” I was like, “Please don’t write anything.” And he’s like, “It’s really newsworthy; it’s going to be on the cover of the Sunday Metro Section.”