The shtick: Italian-leaning neighborhood spot (with an adorable sidewalk café).
The vibe: Frasca’s got date night written all over it in the evening, but in the daytime (especially right now), its outdoor space is a primo brunching spot. The neighborhood clearly knows it–the sidewalk tables stayed full of mother-daughter duos, thirty-something couples, and young families the entire time we dined while the rest of the restaurant sat practically empty. It’s leafy and well-poised for people watching at the intersection of Lincoln and Paulina, followed by some post-meal window-shopping. (We bumped into several of our table neighbors doing just that after our meal.) It’s not the fanciest patio you’ll find, but it’s pleasant and comfortable, just like Frasca itself. 8 out of 10
The drinks: A super-smoky Bloody Mary ($8) was quickly gulped in spite of the unnecessary, wimpy slice of undercooked bacon we tacked on for $1 extra. Mimosas ($8) were as good as a mimosa can get, which is to say, fine. 7 out of 10
The food: Let us now praise the breakfast pizza ($13), which, in our second straight week of brunching, stole the show. The sturdy pie’s charred thin crust supports the weight of three over-easy eggs, sausage, bacon, and cheese (and, for a worthy $3 extra, prosciutto and hollandaise). Is it excessive? Probably. But there’s some kind of primordial glee triggered in devouring this patchwork quilt of all our favorite brunch foods. (It’s also delicious and doesn’t taste as over-the-top as it looks.)
The rest of our meal felt, in spite of some inspired-sounding combos, a little less memorable, a little more routine. Perhaps this is because of the increasing level of homogenization across the 4-Star Restaurant Group’s spots–for instance, the sun-dried tomato, smoked provolone, and basil pesto Lincoln Ave. Omelette ($10) here is the same as the Cornelia Omelette at Crosby’s Kitchen and the Milwaukee Avenue Omelette at Dunlay’s on the Square. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if the food didn’t feel like it could have come from anywhere, which is how the hollandaise-drenched and somewhat bland smoked pork hash ($13) felt. Also disappointing were the cinnamon sugar doughnuts ($8), a dish of puffy zeppole-like bites that were raw inside (even after sending them back–our server said the day’s humidity rendered them un-fry-able). Stick to the pizza if you’re hoping for something special. 6 out of 10
The service: Sweet and accommodating. 8 out of 10
Overall: It’s not the most memorable meal you’ll ever have, but if you’re in the neighborhood and looking to enjoy the outdoors, you could do way worse. 7 out of 10