West Town haunt Cafe Fresco successfully marries the feeling of a neighborhood bar with the cuisine of a mid-scale Italian restaurant. A pinkish and beige awning graces the storefront, declaring its presence on a street brimming with quaint restaurants and bars. Inside, patrons will find a full bar and a small dining area. Maps and globes accent the bar area, as do exposed copper pipes attached to the ceiling. The bar offers a variety of draft beer and wine, and daily food and drink specials are listed on a chalkboard. Participate in Team Trivia night while catching the game on one of the many TVs aligning the bar. You might even find you're playing against some of Cafe Fresco's neighbors; an interior stairwell leads up to a few apartments above the place.
In the dining area, high tables and chairs evoke a bar atmosphere, but the food definitely doesn't. In addition to customary selections like calamari, bruschetta and chicken Vesuvio, the menu offers mouth watering steak au poivre (pepper steak) and jerk steak sandwiches that come with sweet potato fries. Extensive pasta dishes, including artichoke ravioli and gemelli baronesa, a braided pasta with prosciutto and mushrooms, are cooked up for under $13. Cafe Fresco's Hawaiian pizza is made with cornmeal crust and a homemade pineapple sauce certain to satiate the palate.
Fresco's open-air beer garden is the real gem. Couples and groups of friends, gather at plastic chairs and tables within its brick walls, while a painted mural of a cafe scene recreates authentic Italy. Lights are strewn above and ivy grows on the opposite wall. During the colder months, heat lamps are on standby.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Garin Pirnia