What does it mean when we say that food is memorable? It means that, long after food is enjoyed, the memory lingers. After dining at the Fresco Grill and Wine Bar in Bonsall I found myself thinking about the luscious lobster and the fruity wine – even after I had returned home.
Wines from California, Italy and New Zealand fill the restaurant’s cellar; and I chose Maso Canali Pinot Grigio, an Italian wine, which was the recommended wine pairing for the Australian Lobster Tail entrée I ordered. This wine offers a bit of sweetness with apricot aromas, as well as the fruity flavors of peach and pear. It’s a perfect complement to the lobster with its tinge of natural sweetness.
The server strutted to my table bearing the grilled lobster like it was a gift for royalty. She placed it on the table with a little flourish and said boldly, “Buon Appetito!” As an entrée special at Fresco Grill, the luscious, succulent and slightly sweet lobster tail is served with clams and mussels. The warm butter seeping into the crevices of the lobster meat makes it even more delightfully tender. Accompanying the lobster is risotto with vegetables and mushrooms in saffron sauce, which lends a slightly sweet flavor. Slightly and sweet seem to be the operative words here. This sweetness is not like that which comes from sugar, but is a savory/sweet – a balance of both.
Scampi Fresco, a starter choice, is made with large succulent shrimp from Mexico sautéed in white wine with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. An herb marinara sauce adds a bit of zip. Even though the shrimp are among the largest I have ever eaten, they are still tender and quite delicious with a delicate lingering flavor of the wine sauce.
One doesn’t normally envision seafood as an Italian food entrée – at least not in the United States – but Fresco Grill’s seafood is outstanding – from the lobster to the shrimp to the clams to the mussels to the salmon…and beyond.
An exotic choice for salad is Hearts of Palm, which is made with mixed greens, shaved fresh parmesan and chopped tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette. Hearts of palm bring this salad to a place beyond ordinary with a faint buttery and mildly sweet flavor. The heart of palm is harvested from the inner core of the palm tree. I have tasted this “vegetable” in Hawaii, but never on the mainland. It’s considered by some to be a delicacy and I can fully understand why it is labeled as such.
For dessert, the house-created tiramisu is made with lady fingers soaked in espresso, then layered with light and creamy mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa powder. This dessert embodies culinary elegance.
Fresco Grill’s proprietor Leone D’Arcangelo was born, and lived much of his life, in Sperlonga, Italy, which is midway between Rome and Naples on the Mediterranean Sea. He immigrated in 1999, opened Carlsbad’s Fresco Grill in 2004, and founded the Bonsall restaurant in 2006. He still owns a restaurant in Italy, which his father established in 1983. A former chef, Leone takes Italian recipes, does a bit of tweaking, and makes them unique to Fresco Grill. But, he’s more than a chef; Leone exudes warm Italian hospitality and welcomes guests as they arrive.
I visited the restaurant on a Wednesday night, but it seemed like a Friday night with people dancing to piano music, which was not raucous – on the contrary – it was soothing and unobtrusive.
When I left the Fresco Grill, some guests were still twirling to the music, while others were leaning toward their wine glasses whispering to each other. But a few were silent – intent on unraveling the culinary mysteries set before them. The warmth and memories of my night at Fresco Grill followed me out the door, into the car and down the road… What can I say? It was a memorable night with memorable food.
Fresco Grill and Wine Bar is located in Bonsall’s River Village at 5256 S. Mission Road. For further information call (760) 631-1944 or access the website: www.frescorestaurants.com. Enjoy live music at Fresco Grill every Wednesday and Friday night.