A basket of crusty Tuscan-style bread, baked without salt, is delivered immediately, accompanied by a ramekin of rust-colored, flavorful eggplant and sun-dried tomato spread. As with the décor, the seasoning seems more Middle Eastern than traditional Italian, but wherever the origins, it is tasty.
The lunch menu features a half-dozen pastas, gnocchi and a risotto, along with fish and meat dishes. (The dinner menu is a bit more extensive.) Penne Amatriciana is served in a pretty, square china bowl, steaming hot, with fragrant basil. Capers, tomatoes and meaty chunks of pancetta lend their flavors to the tender penne. A sprinkle of parmigiano? Perfetto.
On a recent visit, the soup of the evening was a creamy mushroom, with a deep, smoky flavor and thick consistency. Our salads were artistically plated. My salad of baby greens featured a mix of fresh, crisp lettuces, with curls of parmigiano and a lightly lemony dressing. A caprese salad was presented in a tower of alternating ripe tomato slices and creamy mozzarella, drizzled with balsamico on a large white plate.
My Branzino (Mediterranean Sea Bass) was beautifully moist and fresh, with crackling-crisp skin. The fish was nicely complemented by a generous scattering of capers, and crisp-tender green beans and carrots, all dusted with paprika. Polletto de Montagna Arrosto (Roasted Game Hen) boasted similarly irresistible crispy skin, with tender light and dark meat, and served with roasted red potatoes.
Fresco is under new ownership, after nearly 20 years under chef/owner Antonio Orlando.
The menu has changed, so if the old Fresco was a favorite, expect a few familiar dishes sprinkled in among the new.
One quibble was with the wine glasses, which were so clunky and thick-rimmed that they impaired enjoyment of the wine.
There aren't many options for white tablecloth, fine-dining experiences in the area, so, if a quiet evening in an elegant setting is on your horizon, Fresco might just fit the bill.
WHAT: Fresco Ristorante
WHEN: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; Dinner, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
WHERE: 514 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale
COST: $9 to $26
CONTACT: (818) 247-5541
CHERIE MERCER TWOHY teaches cooking in La Cañada Flintridge. She can be reached at www.chezcherie.com.