Frescos reborn in lovely 'village' setting
When Fresco's was "Fresco Neighborhood Italian Restaurant" on 34th Street in Gainesville, I never thought to dine there, perhaps because at that time I was smack dab in the middle of my junior year at the University of Florida, and I was subsisting on a wide array of make-it-yourself sandwiches and walking-distance cheap eats. On hearing of the recent RE-opening of Fresco Pizza and Pasta, the original's more menu-specific child, I didn't want to waste any time. Plus, I have been having a serious hankering for some good Italian eats, and let's just say Domino's pizza could not sound more grotesque right now.
Fresco's new residence is in the spot of the previously beloved Sisters' cafe in the Haile Village Center. Well, Sisters' brunch was certainly this fan's favorite, but I suppose only the good die young. But I digress. On entering the ghost of Sisters' past, a completely new bistro look unfolded: A dimly lit, very nice bar area straight ahead past the front door gave way to a handful of tables lining the inside walls. I was pleased to see the same sweet, small patio area adjacent to the remodeled building, which allows less than a dozen parties to enjoy the quaint landscape of Haile Village Center in Haile Plantation, especially on such a beautiful day as the day I was there, between its current hours of 5-10 pm Tuesday through Sunday.
At around 6:15 pm on a Thursday, one empty patio table remained, so my dining companion and I snatched it up. Keeping to the standard that this is by no means a fancy place but rather presenting a nice-casual atmosphere, a very nice server wearing blue jeans brought out our drinks and a basket, or two, of hot, fresh garlic bread. A few starters – salad, soup and appetizers –sounded relatively appealing, but with the myriad of pasta and pizza options, I was sold on trying both categories of carbohydrate goodness. There were options to create-your-own pizza or pasta, but for a first visit, I wanted to try a dish the chef deemed worthy of being a menu standard.
Fresco's was created for the modern lifestyle; accessible, casual and local. Urban cuisine in your city today." The Fresco's menu reflects that attitude, style, by featuring two unique dinner ideas in the choices of Urban Dinners and Municipal Meals. Urban Dinners are plates of interesting entrees, including Mushroom & Scallions, and Calamari Costner. The Municipal meals are plates of Italian favorites, such as Eggplant Parmesan and Chicken Marsala. There is a complete Fresco's menu at the restaurant link below this review.
To my delight, my dining companion was just as interested in maximizing the tasting experience as possible, so we opted to share one pizza and one pasta entrée. First the side Caesar salad that accompanied the pasta entrée selection arrived, split into a small and fresh serving for each of us. After quickly gobbling those up, about 10 minutes of good conversation and people-watching gave way to a giant pizza (note: the server claimed the 12" would be adequate for the two of us if we were splitting another entrée) and an order of the Sicilian Chicken Pasta. This pizza was definitely larger than 12", which, at Fresco's, is considered the medium option between 10" and 16". When confronted with more pizza than can be consumed in one sitting, I don't think anyone opposes the idea of leftover pizza. Cold or hot, it really is the best.
So this pizza: The Meateater, as it was aptly dubbed, was a loaded, hand-tossed pizza delight of protein and spice. The generous topping of thin pepperoni slices, chunks of hearty Italian sausage and Canadian bacon, genoa salami and meatballs certainly filled my taste palate with a wide variety of very fresh, quality tasting meat options. What really set it over the edge was when we made the Meateater into the Meat with Heat, which entailed adding a heavy-handed sprinkling of jalapeno slices across the pizza. I am not usually one for a thinner crust, but I have to say the combination of generously-applied, fresh meat toppings with the very savory, herb-flecked cheese and thinner layer of red, homemade pizza sauce with a distinguishable taste and texture of the baked crust shining through really made an impression on my taste buds. I may go so far as to say this is my favorite thinner crust pizza in Hogtown, followed shortly by Big Lou's downtown.
I was also pleased to see the Sicilian Chicken pasta entrée was split into a serving size for each of us. It was actually the perfect size, especially with the pizza companion. I was weary when I read that the sauce the linguine pasta, chunks of chicken and handful of spinach would be coated in was a "spicy cream sauce," as the server originally described it as having a slightly pesto-esque coloring and taste, only spicier and creamier. I was up for trying it though, especially when she mentioned this was one of two of her favorite dishes on the menu, and she had to try them all. The sauce wasn't really anything like she described, but it was better and more of what I was looking for anyway: slightly spicier but less chunky-thick than alfredo, but with that recognizable creamy consistency of a good white sauce. It was delicious, especially when topped with tomatoes and chives.
Fresco's is undoubtedly somewhere I would return to, as the new location, great menu selection, and quality relative to price are all exceptional. I venture to say this is my new slightly nicer than casual Italian go-to in Gainesville. There are too many tasty-sounding things on this menu I have yet to explore!
Note: According to the website, lunchtime service is coming soon!
The Pluses and Minuses of Fresco Pizza & Pasta.
Fresco Pizza & Pasta + indicators:Nice Italian menu selection, good quality ingredients, nice presentation, great bang for bug, appealing indoor and outdoor atmosphere, friendly and pretty prompt service
Fresco Pizza & Pasta - indicators: I can see this being a busier spot at peak hours, especially with a limited number of tables
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Jennifer Tenney Braund Monday, 17 April 2017 18:44 Comment Link
Thank you for the wonderful review. I am so pleased that you enjoyed your experience here at Fresco. One quick note: Fresco is open 7 nights a week from 5-10 pm. Thanks again for your glowing blog!