For Here Or To Go? Fresco Cafe Italiano Caters To BYOB And Take-Out Diners Alike

Chef Roberto Crescini had an idea for a bright, airy spot that offered authentic Italian pasta dishes and sauces to-go. That idea is now reality and located in a Greenway Plaza strip center. Fresco Cafe Italiano is at 3277 Southwest Freeway just off of Edloe.

A funny thing happened: people came in for take-out but then wanted to stay. So, Crescini revamped the floor plan to add seating for 35. This week, Fresco celebrates its grand opening as both the take-out place Crescini imagined and the dine-in spot guests demanded. To mark the occasion, guests who visit through Sunday, April 29 and purchase 10 ounces of Crescini’s signature sauces to-go will receive 14 ounces of fresh, housemade pasta as a gift.

Houston Food Finder was invited to visit and found a restaurant that not only offers great value for the money but a solid list of menu options. Bonus: Fresco is BYOB.

The arugula and quinoa salad is a lighter option to some of Fresco’s hearty pastas. It’s also delicious. Photo courtesy of The Epicurean Publicist.

Crescini is originally from Gavardo, in northern Italy’s Lombardy region. He started cooking at 14 and trained at the Catherine Medici Institute of Culinary Professionals in Florence. A certified salumni maker and taster—which he likens to being a third-level sommelier of cured meats—Crescini worked in restaurants across Italy before moving to the U.S., where he most recently served as executive chef at Enoteca Rossa in Bellaire.

At Fresco, Crescini has packed his menu with sauces and fresh pastas and the result is a veritable Italian buffet. His signature sauce with Texas lamb is a hearty homage to his new home. The earthiness of the lamb is right at home against the pluck of the tomato. The tagliatelle is a great canvas for this sauce, its wide noodles able to handle the heft of the lamb.

Those interested in a more delicate pairing might consider the spindly spaghetti tossed in Crescini’s olive oil, garlic, basil and fresh tomato sauce. There are oodles of other options, too. Other pastas include fettuccine, fusilli, linguine, rigatoni and bucatini. Among the sauce options are spicy pork sausage, pesto and sun-dried tomato, Alfredo and Bolognese.

Fresco’s almond torta is packed with nutty flavor and laced with brilliant orange. Photo courtesy of The Epicurean Publicist.

Fresco’s pizzas are all made in the Roman style, with a slightly less-than-medium crust created from dough made in-house daily. The size is hefty for one and easily shared among two. The Margherita, in particular, is a great go-to choice for lunch or a light dinner. Crescini also offers pepperoni and sausage pizzas, as well as a Fredda with Marinara sauce, arugula and prosciutto.

There are a number of salads, including one with arugula and quinoa that tastes fresh and healthy. For dessert, the almond torta is a delight of nuttiness laced with bright orange. It’s also gluten free, as is the classic tiramisu.

He says the secret to his cuisine is simple: it’s his passion—and also using simple ingredients. Crescini makes his pasta with two ingredients only — egg and flour. “No water,” he said. “[Egg and flour are] the perfect recipe for a pasta with great flavor and texture.” Crescini calls his cuisine traditional, and he strives to let the fresh ingredients speak for themselves.

Diners looking to grab something fresh to take home will find Crescini’s offerings inviting and delicious. Those who want to bring a bottle of wine and linger can do just that.

Fresco Cafe Italiano is open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

About the author: Holly Beretto writes about food, wine, the arts and interesting people for a variety of local publications, including Downtown magazine and Houstonia. Her work has appeared in Arts + Culture TexasSanta Clara magazine, Maui No Ka Oi, PRIME Living and the Arizona State University and St. Paul’s School alumni magazines. She is the editor of Pierce, the magazine of Franklin Pierce University and the author of Christ as the Cornerstone: Fifty Years of Worship at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, published by Bright Sky Press. Originally from Rhode Island, she lives in Houston with her husband Mark Love.

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