Innovative pizzeria and restaurant, previously Francesco’s Italian Restaurant, opened by New York City bar owner Matt Marcus (A Bar, Darlings, Zeke’s) and tattoo artist (Three Kings Tattoo) and award-winning chef-owner Mya Anitai (Dinamo).
HIGHLANDS, NEW JERSEY Februrary 26, 2020 — Franny’s, a vibrant neighborhood pizzeria and Italian restaurant, announces new ownership, renovations, and an updated menu at their Bay Avenue location in Highlands, New Jersey.
The 80-seat dine-in and take-out restaurant was formerly known as Francesco’s Italian Restaurant, a beloved fixture of the community that was operated for 35 years by owners Giorgio and Anna Migliaccio. Last spring, Giorgio was honored to pass the pizza slicer to new owners Mya Anitai and her husband Matt Marcus.
Anitai is the owner of award-winning trattoria and café, Dinamo, located in Richmond, Virginia. After relocating to the north Jersey shore, Anitai was introduced to Giorgio through his warm hospitality and legendary grandma slice; Anitai became a regular at Francesco’s and eventually discussed a change in ownership that took place in May 2019.
“We were in love with Highlands and Sandy Hook and had been looking for the right restaurant location. The moment we saw Francesco’s garden in full bloom, growing crates of beautiful tomatoes and piles of herbs for the kitchen, we knew we had found a home,” says Anitai, whose restaurant Dinamo was nominated for Restaurant of the Year by Richmond Magazine in 2018 and 2019.
A new modern menu, inspired by Francesco’s classics and Dinamo’s award-winning cuisine, reflects Anitai’s unique culinary worldview—honoring the past while embodying the exciting state of pizza in the tri-state region. Along with oil-pressed grandma and Sicilian pies, Franny’s serves hand-tossed pizzas like The Commuter (charred pepperoni cups finished with Mike's Hot Honey) and The Little Italy (fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, lemon and roasted garlic).
In addition to pizza, the extensive menu includes farm-to-table starters like a roasted beet and fennel salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and feta, featuring seasonal produce from non-profit organization Oasis TLC.
Cold and hot subs, like the popular Starfire (chicken cutlet with sautéed broccoli rabe, basil pesto and melted mozzarella) compliment a lineup of Italian-America red sauce pasta legends—carbonara, Bolognese, eggplant lasagna, and baked ziti. All seafood arrives fresh daily from local fisherman and clammers docked at nearby marinas. Cannoli, tarfufo, and Anitai’s famous limoncello tart with Italian cherries round out a shareable dessert menu.
Anitai and Marcus strive to continue the traditions of Francesco’s past while introducing modern dishes emphasizing the Jersey Shores’ incredible bounty of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Franny’s relaxed, beach town atmosphere makes it logical (required!) stop after a day at the shore, or a perfect, dinner and bottle-of-wine date night—where you bring the wine. Franny’s is BYOB.
The recent renovations include weatherproofing a heated 50-seat terrace, now available for dining 12 months out of the year. In the space Anitai plans to host family arts events, cake decorating classes, movie nights, and “make your own pizza” parties for kids. The space can be reserved by calling 732-872-0080. Franny’s is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11 am to 10 pm. Friday and Saturday 11 am to 11 pm. Sunday 11 am – 10 pm. Closed Monday.
(Editor's note: The Herald is happy to promote new businesses in our area. We encourage our readers to shop locally to support our local merchants.)