Warm lights, a cozy bar, and fresh, fresh, fresh! We were sick and tired of the same old menus at chain restaurants and wanted something different. My son, who is a cook in St. Catharines himself, suggested we try Fresco's. He said that he rarely visits a restaurant more than once unless it is outstanding....this was his third visit, and I now understand why. First, the setting - though right at the corner of a very busy intersection, this restaurant manages to convey the impression that you are in a cozy taverna in the Mediterranean, or lounging poolside at a Caribbean resort. The palm fronds on the trees lining the patio were swaying in the breeze, and for seating you could choose patio tables and chairs or comfy loungers arranged informally around low-set tables, which conspired to create an atmosphere of intimacy. You could imagine that the glass walls surrounding the patio were in fact the sea wall, with nothing but tranquility beyond. To add to the ambiance, the music playing inside and outside (but not so loud that you had to shout to be heard by your companions, something we detest) was a mixture of jazz, 30s-40s crooners, and european rhythms, which is such a refreshing change from the usual boom-boom-boom of the hip-hop or club music you hear in most restaurants today. Inside, the walls are painted in warm, happy colours, with lots of Mediterranean prints and motifs. The floors are a colourful mosaic of cut-glass pieces arranged artfully in a white background - very unusual and pretty. They are clearly updating the bathrooms, as the fixtures are newer and kind of funky, but the lighting and overall appearance is still a bit dated, however they were clean and that is the important thing. No doubt finishing this project will be on their to-do list, as it appears this location was formerly a bit run-down, but is being updated beautifully by the current owners.
The service was fast and friendly, though as another reviewer said, not overly attentive to the point of being a nuisance. The food was fantastic. We chose to order from the menu, though because it was Thursday when we were there we could have opted for the fresh and lovely pasta and salad bar which was very inviting.
Each dish was well thought-through, prepared and served individually, and presented very attractively. The meals came with complimentary salad and bread, and there was no extra cost to have Caesar salad instead of the house (both of which were very good). It was hard to settle on an appetizer, as there were so many delicious-sounding choices, so we opted for the hot Meze, which included a variety of apps to share. Especially good were the crab-stuffed dumplings - yum! This dish was enough for 2-3 people, and came with a variety of sauces to dip, and lemon slices for the fish. My son (the cook) chose the Baked Pickerel (though he said the fish had a bit too much batter and was a bit underseasoned, but he really liked the citrus rice pilaf). My other son had the Chicken and Sausage Penne, which he really enjoyed. I chose the Zucchini Parmigiana, and oh my, the flavour! It melted in my mouth! It was lovely! But there was no way I was getting through all the pasta that came with it. They offered to wrap it up so I could take it home with me!
All told, the cost of 3 of us to dine (no alcohol) was less than it usually costs for 2 people to eat at one of those big chain restaurants, and we felt we had a decent meal for our money. Most of all we didn't want to leave because we were really enjoying the atmosphere, but it started to get cold on the patio so we headed home. But we will definitely be back!
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