Ferdinando's Focacceria has seemingly been around forever. While it has existed since well before I was born, it has been in its current site on Union Street in Brooklyn only since 1904. I grew up with the place and its classic street food directly from Palermo and I am more than happy to say that while the neighborhood has changed considerably, the food at Ferdinando's hasn't. It is still wonderful and more unique in NYC than ever.
Visiting the area with my son, L.J., to attend the Omnivore events at The Invisible Dog on Bergen Street between Smith and Court, we slipped over to Ferdinando's late this past Friday afternoon for a quick snack. The decor is not a retro throwback from an earlier era – it is the earlier era, harkening to the neighborhood's 20th century mostly Italian-American roots. There is nothing fancy about it, but it is honest. Indeed, while we were there, there were a couple of older men from the neighborhood, sitting, eating and speaking Italian dialect to each other.
The temptation to get more than a snack was great, but we stuck to our guns and shared a panelle special sandwich and a huge arrancino. The panelle special sandwich from Ferdinando's is pure comfort food to me. Fresh, crisp fried panelle (flat chick-pea flour fritters) are bedded on a hot, crisp sesame roll and covered in fresh ricotta and shaved cacciocavallo cheese. The blend of textures, flavors and temperatures makes for an incomparably delicious sandwich.
The arrancino (rice ball) made from risotto Milanese rice balled around chopped meat ragu and fried to a crisp golden brown is preternaturally large. How these don't fall apart in the process of cooking is a small miracle, but they most certainly do not.
We were tempted to eat more, but we had dinner plans with friends, so we grudgingly refrained. I hope Ferdinando's will be there forever. It deserves to be.