Tucked away in a small shopping center off the corner of Norview Avenue and Military Highway in central Norfolk is a hidden gem called Franco’s Italian. If you live or work in the area, you probably already know about Franco’s. If you don’t, you probably haven’t been there yet. But you should go. Really.
Franco’s is a small place. There are a fair number of tables and booths, all positioned to make the most of the limited square footage. When it gets crowded, you will have to wind your way around people and chairs to get from the door to your spot. If you are already seated, be prepared to have people brush against you as they pass by. Personally, I am okay with this intimacy given the quality of the food. If you aren’t, well, I told you so. Just pretend you are in New York City.
Back to the food.
I have been to Franco’s for both lunch and dinner, once with a good friend and once with my family. We all agreed, this is a great place to get tasty, made-from-scratch Italian food. I did not get a chance to speak with him, but I think Franco was cooking in the back. The servers were good, not too intrusive, yet helpful when needed. Some people have mentioned they aren’t too friendly, but I have not seen anything of the sort. In fact, our server last night was great – bringing us warm pizza bread without us having to ask. And you have to ask, since it’s not on the menu. Consider yourself a local now. Ask for the pizza bread.
I had the peppers and sausage grinder for lunch, and the penne with meatballs for dinner (on separate days – the lunch was so filling I doubt I could have made a second trip within hours.) I’m telling you, nothing beats a homemade meatball, the kind fashioned with veal and pork goodness. These were awesome. Moist, full of flavor, possessing a gentle texture. And fairly big, too. Size matters with meatballs, especially if they are this savory.
My wife had the Eggplant Parmesan, which she was very happy to receive. I had the leftovers today and I can see why she was so happy. The marinara sauce was beautiful; and not too acidic. My daughter, who favors plain noodles, ordered the linguine with oil and garlic sauce. All I can say is she was a very, very happy camper! Portions were more than generous and the bread products were either baked on site (the pizza bread) or baked locally and delivered daily. I took the photo in the morning, just as the bakery dropped off the day’s grinder rolls.
There is one problem with Franco’s Italian and I would be remiss if I did not mention it now. There are so many great sounding items on the menu, you will want to keep going back to try new dishes. I have already decided that on my next visit, dinner will start with mussels in wine sauce, followed by puttanesca over spaghetti. Puttanesca, for those not familiar, involves anchovies, olives, capers, garlic and marinara sauce.
And people seem to rave about all of the grinders and pizza. Will there ever be enough time to try them all?
I hope so!
Franco’s is located at 6200 North Military Highway in central Norfolk, just down the street from the airport. Look for the Shell gas station on the corner; Franco’s is way in the back. They are closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and through Sunday for Dinner.
Major credit cards and cash accepted.
Beer and wine on premises.
- Pasta Puttanesca (mybakersdozen.wordpress.com)
- Cooking Italian Food With Pasta (pagesla.wordpress.com)
- Baked Penne With Vegetables (marrylallwrite.com)
- Chef Payne’s Famous Spaghetti & Meatballs (artoflivingchef.com)