Generational recipes from Italy, a creative chef who knows how to wield ingredients with flair, impeccable service and reasonable prices… it’s a formula for success, and successful it has been. That is the story of the first year of business for Fresco Grill & Wine Bar in Bonsall’s River Village.
“My customers are my friends,” said proprietor Roberto Calci, who was raised in Milano, Italy, where there is a standard of excellence that extends to both wine and cuisine. Calci’s mother still owns a restaurant in the city. His life has been infused with culinary excellence that is evident in Fresco Grill’s cuisine, which is not only reminiscent of northern Italy but also of Tuscany.
Last fall Calci made a trip to Milano, where he visited various restaurants, discovering new dishes. Fresco’s menu reflects the new discoveries. I have visited Milano, savored the best – and can safely say that Fresco’s dishes are truly Italy-inspired.
While in Italy, Calci honed his wine aficionado instincts and has stocked Fresco’s private cellar with many exceptional bottles.
At Fresco, even before the entree is served, a basket brimming with herb-laden focaccia bread is set on the table. Dip it in the fresh marinara sauce and you will almost forget that there is more to come!
For starters the fried calamari is an excellent choice; it is crisp yet tender and some of the best calamari I have ever tasted. The white shrimp are also very tender and drenched in a tomato basil sauce.
A delectable entrée choice is a recipe from Milano, Veal Milanese. The veal is pounded, then breaded, and served with checca sauce, which is tomato-based with basil, shaved mozzarella and spices. The checca adds zest but the veal can stand alone as well.
Side dishes aren’t always mentioned in reviews; however, Fresco’s potatoes deserve a nod. Made with cubed russet potatoes sprinkled in herbs, lightly fried, then baked, they are delicious.
The updated menu is enlivened with savory-sounding dishes such as Gnocchi alla Roberto and Risotti (with rock shrimp), which I can’t wait to sample on my next visit.
Don’t leave the restaurant without trying at least one of the delights that constitutes the dessert menu. They are imported from Italy and then embellished on-site. One of the most engaging is the chocolate soufflé. It is an artful presentation nestled in a waffle cone flanked by dollops of creamy mascarpone cheese and crowned with maraschino cherries. In the mood for just coffee and dessert? The chocolate soufflé is an elegant choice.
For a lighter taste, the raspberry sorbet topped with a delicious brown sugar sculpture is a fresh selection.
Future Fresco plans include a cooking class – keep an eye out for this one. It isn’t every day that one can benefit from a native of Milano with culinary expertise in his veins! It is impressive that Calci is sharing his knowledge with others and not keeping his cooking secrets to himself.
Wine appreciation classes are also premiering soon and the restaurant now has a full liquor license, so watch for some flaming dishes such as Crêpe Suzette.
Dining at Fresco Grill & Wine Bar is a truly relaxing experience with soft Italian music wafting through the air and dishes that are meant to be savored.
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Fresco Grill & Wine Bar
5236 S. Mission Road
Bonsall (River Village)