The pasta is the star of the show at Fresco Cafe Italiano, for good reason. One bite of the spaghetti in a simple sauce had me raving like I was trying to sell the latest whiz-bang kitchen gadget in an infomercial. “That’s so good and it tastes so fresh,” I told my roommate, kind enough to let me steal a bite from her plate, as if she hadn’t discovered this knowledge five minutes ago when she started eating it herself. If I was serving up pasta this tasty, I too would put my pasta extruder out in front by the register so that everyone could see the magic being made.
But it’s not the pasta I want to talk about today. No, I’m in love with something different at Fresco Cafe Italiano, something flatter, yet just as full of flavor as the pasta dishes that have people raving. Something that I knew, even before my meal was done, that I would be coming back to again and again. It is not the fanciest dish on the menu, it is not the best display of Chef Roberto Crescini’s skills or roots, but I fell in love with it instantly all the same. I am talking about the pepperoni pizza.
The presentation is simple: two rows of Calabrese pepperoni across a rectangle of freshly shredded mozzarella, sauce and dough, cut into six neat slices. Alone on a plate, it might look a bit on the plain side, but this is all deception. Bite down and you taste a rush of flavors. The pepperoni has a wonderful crunch and a bold saltiness. The cheese is just the right level of gooey, and if you move fast enough when it hits the table you can stretch it out over your head if you don’t mind people looking at you funny.
But it’s the dough that brings it all together, which is unsurprising given the quality of the pasta being served in the same establishment. It’s got good bite and mouthfeel, and provides an excellent platform for the toppings to skate upon. It’s quite tasty too, with butter notes punching up through the rest of the pie to say hello. In this pizza, every bite feels like it’s a perfect one.
There’s little sticker shock at Fresco’s, which may be why I’m jazzed about it more than anything else. This pizza, which left me completely satisfied on its own, will only run you $8, and in my pizza explorations I have yet to find anything I enjoy this much anywhere close to this price point, and I'm a guy who loves the fast-casual build-your-own pizza revolution.
Fresco is not the fanciest Italian spot in Houston, but when we start talking about the best, it’s definitely here to enter the conversation.