Trailblazer 2.0: Danny Amend Pushes Marco's as He Did Franny's
You can thank Franny's for the proliferation of the Brooklyn-themed restaurant over the last decade: The Prospect Heights pizzeria was one of the first to espouse a farm-to-table ethos in the borough, and it drew legions of fans from across the city as a result.
John von Pamer
Danny Amend helped move it to that point; he took over the burners from owner Andrew Feinberg, who continues to be involved with the restaurant on a daily basis. Amend grew up in Santa Rosa, California, where his father owned a roofing company and his mother was an artist. The family had a big garden, and Amend became fascinated with it. His experimentation in the kitchen was a byproduct of his curiosity, and his parents agreed that if he could keep his grades up, he could work in restaurants. By the time he left for the Culinary Institute of America after high school, he had years of experience under his belt, including some time spent as a butcher.
He externed at the French Laundry, which exposed him to fine dining, and after graduation, he headed down to San Francisco, viewing it as a stepping stone out to New York City. He landed a job at Boku, and then, through a connection, a stint at Mix, which Alain Ducasse had just opened in Las Vegas. "My time in Vegas was a blur," he says. "Not because I was partying, because I was working seven days a week. I hated it." He asked Ducasse to transfer him, and he wound up in the Big Apple at Essex House, where he was part of the team that netted that venue three Michelin stars.
A brief period at Per Se followed, but by then, Amend was burnt out on fine dining. He'd eaten at Franny's, and he decided he wanted to get involved. He brought Jonathan Adler, another chef at Per Se, behind the line with him, and the pair soon became co-chefs, building the restaurant into a neighborhood joint constantly thronged by hours-long lines.
Last year, Franny's owners Feinberg and Francine Stephens moved the pizzeria to a larger location down the street, turning the original Franny's address into Marco's (295 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-230-0427), an Italian restaurant that Amend was left to helm (Franny's is now under the control of Adler).
In this interview, Amend weighs in on the Franny's legacy, his philosophy, and what comes next for New York restaurants.