Fresco Café North
5940 Calle Real
Phone: (805) 692-8999
Hours: Mon-Sun 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Price: $10 – $20

Fresco Café fully lives up to its name, and exceeds freshpectations — from the organic and local ingredients, to the delicious dishes and desserts made from scratch every day, to the exuberant energy of the welcoming staff.

“We make everything from scratch daily. Nothing in our pantry or our walk-in has any preservatives,” Julie Weiss, manager of Fresco Café North, said.

This commitment to crisp, fresh fare extends to every entrée in their diverse selection of lunch and
dinner items.

The menu includes everything from pizzas to pitas and calzones to quiches, making this a perfect place to come for indecisive diners looking for a spot to satisfy a variety of cravings.

“I’m a super health-conscious person, so you can come in here and indulge, but you can also eat light,” Weiss said.

One of Weiss’s personal favorites is the Santa Fe Chicken Salad. This flavorful fiesta of a salad comes with Santa Fe blackened chicken, crisp romaine lettuce, thick slices of avocado, corn, black beans, red onion, cilantro, tomato, cheddar cheese, crispy tortilla strips and ranch dressing.

The Beach Sandwich is another stand-out menu item featuring grilled chicken, avocado, tomato and Vermont cheddar cheese with chipotle aioli on grilled levain bread for a taste as blissful as that perfect sunny day on the beach. Order it with the Gorgonzola Walnut Salad and you won’t be disappointed — a fact that virtually the entire staff can attest to.

“Ninety percent of my staff every day gets the Beach with the Gorgonzola salad,” Weiss said.

Whether it’s the knock-out food, family feel, or bright atmosphere, Fresco Café North has a way of maintaining a dedicated clientele as well as staff.
“All the staff, with the exception of like two people, have all been here since the day we opened. It’s like a family,” Weiss said.

The simple fact that the staff is happy with their jobs makes a large difference in their customer service, which includes not only a smile and a “have a good day,” but genuine sincerity, enthusiasm and a willingness to make recommendations or answer questions about any of the menu items.

“A lot of people go to work and they just hate their job. It’s just a routine for them. Here it’s my job, but I enjoy coming because it’s like a family here, rather than just co-workers,” Adam Martinez, a server who has been there since their opening in May 2007, said.

The close-knit relationship of the Fresco staff extends to the UCSB community as well, with their interior design showcasing art from students along the walls.

“Any UCSB student who has art and wants to display it, it’s free to do,” Weiss said about their adornment of wall paintings ­– which they change about four times a year –offering valuable exposure for emerging talent.

Their menu also gives a nod to UCSB with the Gaucho salad, which includes shredded cabbage, carrots, red pepper, red onion, snap peas, sweet corn, black beans and chopped tomatoes with their tangy chipotle vinaigrette dressing. All of the helpings are generous, so the college clientele can get a lot of flavorful bang for their frugal buck.

“All of our sandwiches come with soup or salad. So it’s definitely a good amount of food. No one ever leaves here hungry,” Weiss said.

Fresco’s daily dinner and wine specials are another addition that any UCSB student will appreciate. With the purchase of any pasta, meat or fish entrée, you can enjoy a glass of selected Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon for only $2. What better way to enjoy the Gorgonzola Crusted Filet Mignon with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and a red wine demi glace, than with a glass of red wine?

I could write an entire review just on their heavenly pastry case, so make sure to sample one of their famously fresh desserts, no matter how stuffed you are from dinner. Favorites include gigantic cookies, tiramisu, croissant bread pudding and a chocolate mouse truffle, or what customers refer to as the “chocolate bomb.” This “bomb” includes a dynamite layering of devil’s food cake, chocolate mousse, all coated in dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate shavings, exploding with rich chocolate flavor in every bite.

As a stiff competitor in the cupcake craze, Fresco offers a delectable selection of the hugest cupcakes I have ever witnessed at the modest price of $3.50. The carrot cupcake with rich cream cheese frosting is divine. But the dessert which surprisingly most satisfied my sweet tooth was the fruit tart. I had always discounted fruit tarts as a stale attempt at making dessert healthy; but with fresh, buttery shortbread covered in a luscious layering of mandarin oranges, strawberries and blueberries, swirled with fluffy homemade vanilla whipped cream and topped with an apricot glaze, this little item rocked my dessert world.

So next time you are looking for a nearby restaurant to please a variety of palates with delicious cuisine and friendly service, stop by Fresco Café North, open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.