The phone call in May was shocking, Joe Campanale recalls.
It was Francine Stephens on the line. With her husband, Andrew Feinberg, Ms. Stephens owned Franny’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a restaurant beloved not only in the neighborhood but throughout New York for its pizzas, rustic Italian fare and great wine list. Ms. Stephens wanted to let him know that Franny’s was closing before she announced it publicly.
Mr. Campanale, a restaurateur and sommelier who in 2016 had sold his shares in the Epicurean Group, owners of L’Artusi, Dell’Anima and Anfora in the West Village, was among Franny’s many regulars. But along with the dismaying news came an offer: Was Mr. Campanale interested in taking over the space?
Since last fall, he and Erin Shambura, the former chef at L’Artusi, had been looking unsuccessfully for a place to open a restaurant. “We had such mixed emotions,” he said. “We were sad because we were regulars, but excited because we knew it was the perfect place.”
The new restaurant, to be called Fausto, is expected to open by December. Mr. Campanale says it will center on wine, with a wide range of Italian dishes, yet it will be intentionally different from Franny’s, which he suggested was a hard act to follow. “It will be a little more elevated in terms of food and service,” he said. “We’re not going to be doing pizza.”
Fausto will retain Franny’s wood-burning oven, and Mr. Campanale said the Italian menu would be determined by whatever local ingredients were best and seasonal, rather than derived from any regional cuisine.
While the wine list will include some of the wonderful quirky wines that were a hallmark of Franny’s, he said, he also wants to offer top-tier classic Italian wines, and possibly wines from a few favorite non-Italian regions. He said he was inspired by the list at Marta, Danny Meyer’s Manhattan pizzeria, where consumers are encouraged to buy good Champagne at lower-than-usual markups.
The dining room will get a full design change by Home Studios of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “I want it to be a smart, upbeat restaurant with a little more style than you usually see in this neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not going to be hipster, and it’s not going to be rustic.”
As for the name,…