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In a word: Good and flashy, but lacking heart.

The specs: #0228
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews by Monnie, Nina, Wisconsin Roaming, Madison Foodie, at Yelp, Cap Times, Self Loathing Pop Culture Fanatic, At First Taste, QSC, interview with Valeria Benner; Food Fight site, Fresco on Urbanspoon

Latest Fresco news and reviews

JM ate the bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
Nichole ate the winter squash soup, duck confit, and Hahn shiraz.
The bill was $76, or $38/person, plus tip.
JM gave Fresco a B+; Nichole gave Fresco a B (see our grading rubric).

Seasonal restaurants can have a hard time in winter in Wisconsin. We'd heard of some delightful dinners at Fresco on June nights, but were less sure it could be charming in the dead of winter, but it ended up being pretty good.

Amuse boucheWe were seated by a window, JM with his back to the Capitol, which made it look like the dome was perched on his head. That Nichole found this funny even before her glass of (very tasty) shiraz is somewhat embarrassing to us both.

Also amusing was the amuse bouche, which tonight was a shrimp atop a toasted bread round garnished with melon salsa and a perky sliver of onion. The textures - crunchy bread, bouncy shrimp, and juicy salsa - were quite lively.

Squash soup

Nichole's winter squash soup also featured some interesting combinations. The buttery soup contrasted with the sharp cheese garnish, both of which almost (but not quite) clashed with the candied nuts on the bottom of the bowl.

JM's steak and potatoes, like everything else at Fresco, were presented beautifully.

Filet mignon

He did feel a lack of cues on how to use the accompanying sauce, so, risking censure, he just drizzled it over the steak. The salad was also very strange to his taste, but the tender steak and bacon combo yielded +3000 points and a 1UP.

The aesthetic theme of squares and circles was everywhere at Fresco, right down to the potatoes under Nichole's duck confit:

Duck confit

The beauty heart radishes (perfect circles) and greens were in a light, tart dressing that balanced and cut the rich duck meat very well. The potatoes were silky smooth and fresh.

We both still had room for dessert this time, so we opted for something we could never make at home: chocolate mousse in a sugar cage, presented with a wooden mallet. JM did the honors while Nichole risked looking like a tourist to get an action shot.

Sugar cage

It reminded Nichole of childhood books - was it in Little House? - in which pioneers drizzled maple syrup over fresh snow to make hard candy. This candy was somewhat nondescript sugar, but we ate it all anyway. The mousse was delicious.

Even then, JM thought Fresco was really good food, but he wasn't quite full. It seems that Fresco lacks the soul of your L'Etoile or Harvest.  It seems more like somebody thought that MMoCA needed a foodie restaurant and, hey presto!, Fresco. He also noticed that the entire waitstaff was female. He's just saying, is all. Nichole, less interested in such things, felt the experience was pleasant and worthwhile.


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Sarah called and told me to google JM and John Sams because they had invented a game. While going through the listings (there are a lot!) I found an article in the WI State Journal and had to laugh. I really admire what you guys are doing. We get to Madison fairly frequently, but haven't run into you yet. Of course, having the boys makes it a little harder to do much of anything exciting...we'd love to try to meet up with you sometime...


We went to Fresco last week, with some friends.

Not bad, but for what seemed the same price as L'Etoile and/or Harvest, we were a bit disappointed. Food seemed overcooked, all-around, but the presentations were delightful.

I think you hit the nail on the head with "It seems that Fresco lacks the soul of your L'Etoile or Harvest. "

Really good-to-great food was the plus, but mediocre service and (frankly) disappointing atmosphere led me to compare Fresco to the first class section of a jumbo liner.

Granted, it was busy and cramped due to Restaurant Week, and closed-in due to the season, but I'm still generally non-blown away by Fresco. Looking forward to a last hurrah with Cocoliquot on Friday, though!

I'd never even heard of it till tonight. A friend of mine invited me and my g/f out to it. I had no expectations other than it was a semi-nice restaurant on State Street.

It was amazing. I ordered the ricotti gannosh (sp) and it was one of the best meals ever. Typically I am a picky eater, but this meal was fantastic. To top it off, the appetizer and dessert were great too. I liked the ambience of the place as well. My friends got the salmon and they both liked that as well. We certainly planned on eating there again.

I'd give it an A.

Fresco is worth the visit. The service has definitely improved over the last few weeks (I think is under new management?) If you are on a budget, is a super-fun place for special snacks and happy hour cocktails.

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