NKOTB: Franklin Café Tavola Calda


From left: Franklin Café's Luca Manfé and Luigi Leuci

Franklin Café Tavola Calda is the first restaurant where Luigi Leuci has “100 percent vision” (as translated from Italian by his manager, Luca Manfé). A major part of that vision is for the restaurant to be a “tavola calda,” which means “warm table” but, more idiomatically, a casual restaurant where you can grab a quick bite.

franklin-cafe5-by-tribeca-citizenfranklin-cafe4-by-tribeca-citizen2Leuci—who actually goes by Gigi, the nickname Italians use for Luigi—is from the Puglia region of Italy, specifically the city of Bari; when he moved to New York five years ago, working most recently at a pizzeria on the Upper East Side, he brought with him 16 years of restaurant experience. His wife, Monya Manta, is also from Puglia (the town of Lecce), but the two actually met in New York. They now live in Astoria, but when they decided to open a restaurant, they turned to Tribeca—“I always loved the area,” says Leuci. They were having dinner at Churrascaria Tribeca when they noticed the “for rent” sign on what used to be Franklin Station Café.

Not only is Leuci the chef, but he also designed and built the bar, tables, shelves, and light fixtures (out of repurposed wine bottles); Manta, a nutritionist, helps direct in the kitchen. Considering the restaurant is relatively small—26 seats inside, plus 15 at the bar and 14 tables outside—their ambitions are big. Dinner started Monday, with breakfast and lunch projected to follow by April 1. Breakfast will be Italian- and American-style, with dishes such as omelets and French toast. The lunch menu will be like the dinner one—pizzas and focaccias, baked pastas (a staple of southern Italy), and daily specials— augmented with salads, soups, and sandwiches. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. will be Italian-style happy hour: The drinks aren’t cheaper (“They’re already cheap!” says Manfé), but snacks are included. And in three to four weeks, Franklin Café hopes to offer delivery.

Franklin Café Tavola Calda is at 222 West Broadway (at Franklin); 212-625-8833, franklincafenyc.com.

UPDATE 4/9/10: Luca emailed to say that he has left Franklin Café.




  1. i’m looking forward to going there, we need something like this in the area!

  2. Can’t wait! Especially if pizza is on the menu.

  3. I dropped in on their opening night… All I can say is Amazing. The pizza, the meatballs, especially the meatballs- I will definitely be back. I didn’t taste one thing that I didn’t like. And most I loved. It was the best Italian I’ve ever had-and I love Italian food! So glad they opened!

  4. I know Gigi, Luca, + Alessandro from their stints on the UES, When they told me that they were re-opening the FS space as Tavola Calda I was thrilled!
    They know how to run wonderful a restaurant, with a great variety of truly Italian pizzas, and those delic meatballs and much much more will temp anyone to want to feast and the casual atmosphere, the music, the sense of fun just makes you want to return and return and return! opening nite was just the beginning!!!!

  5. I have to say that I was less than impressed, and I found it incredibly irritating how the men in there insisted on flirting with every female customer. I don’t want to have to be harassed by my waiter. And while the laid back atmosphere is nice, it took them a good twenty minutes to get me the check that I had asked for.

  6. Tavola has apparently closed down. A real shame. I had been there for dinner a few times and their pizza was great. Staff was always super friendly.