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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Fresco: Back Home Again in Glendale

July 25, 1993|LAURIE OCHOA

Is half of a good thing better than none? For years, the best place to eat in Glendale was the Italian restaurant Fresco. Lino Autiero ran the front of the house; Antonio Orlando cooked.

In 1991, the partners split. Orlando left to open his own Antonio Orlando restaurant in Pasadena, and Autiero kept Fresco. Neither place survived. Fresco closed last year, and for the past few weeks callers to Antonio Orlando have been greeted with a phone message saying the restaurant was shut down.

Most people who ate at Orlando's Pasadena place liked the food, which was as good as always, but both the look of the restaurant (brick-walled fern bar) and the service (young and inexperienced, where Fresco's was suave and mature) was a turn-off.

Orlando must have realized the problem, because last week he returned to the vacant Fresco space and reopened--as Fresco.

Old regulars seem to have found the place without much notice, attracted perhaps by the sudden appearance of a valet parker out front. Walk inside and it's 1988 all over again. Except for the noticeable absence of Autiero (replaced up front by a slightly colder maitre d'), not much has changed. There are the familiar stuccoed arches in the dining room, the etched-glass panel with the Fresco name, the same elegant and civilized mood of the room. Waiters are confident and professional.

This is a much better setting for Orlando's food, which is the sort of cooking that should remind even those burned out on pasta joints why so many of us fell in love with Italian food in the first place. Osso bucco , tender and with no skimping on the marrow, comes with a perfect version of risotto milanese ; calamari is stewed with tomatoes, garlic and capers. And Caesar salad is made the old-fashioned way: at the table. Maybe you can go home again.

Fresco, 514 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 247-5541. Dinner for two, food only, $30 to $65.

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