The first thing I noticed when approaching 264 Fresco was the wonderful aromas of burning wood and fabulous food wafting from the kitchen. The next sensory stimulation is the very appealing exterior with its warm, clean lines that suggests a mix of contemporary and traditional design.
Then you see the whimsical pots and pans in somewhat of a sculpture form that are hanging near the entrance that suggest that while there is serious food inside, 264 Fresco does not take itself too seriously.
Inside the pleasing visuals continue with a sexy patio and bar and a dining room with indoor and outdoor seating. The candles are real and the lighting is soft and inviting. The interior design was conceptualized by owner Linda Dinitto with help from her Argentinian friend George Gill. It’s a great looking restaurant and something I did not expect west of Coast Highway 101 in Carlsbad Village.
Given the extensive international restaurant industry experience of Dinitto, the quality of the design and the menu comes as no surprise. Dinitto was born and raised in Venezuela to Italian parents. She moved to Italy when she was 17 and attended university in Rome. Her dad was in the fish industry in Venezuela and in Italy he had a beach resort in Gaeta. The resort also had a big restaurant that hosted weddings and events. So it was at an early age that she was immersed in the hospitality industry.
Dinitto took over sole ownership of 264 Fresco three years ago and added the 264 to what was then just Fresco. She wanted to make the restaurant hers and started gathering ideas from her culinary travels to New York where her children were working and studying. Her 20 years in Carlsbad also helped shape the menu to appeal to its coastal location.
The menu is built around classic Italian dishes and the wood-burning oven. Gaeta, Italy where Dinitto moved when she was 17 is known for wood-fired pizza so that was an obvious direction for her to go. The menu is extensive though and besides the Italian favorites has a nice selection of seafood, steaks, vegetarian, vegan and kids choices. It’s Dinitto’s menu that she has developed through a combination of her travels and collaboration with her chef, Javier.
We started with the Mozzarella Caprese that was stacked high with heirloom tomatoes, basil and a nice olive oil. It was plenty for two and had really nice tomatoes. The Quinoa Salad was also a heaping portion and was easily shared. I went with the Halibut with tomatoes, capers, olives and bountiful rock shrimp that was a really nice presentation. Combined with my dining companion’s Veal Piccata with lemon, capers and a nice white wine sauce, we had a shared surf and turf thing going on with a side of pasta and risotto. There were four options with the risotto and I went with the one with sausage for a bit more turf. It was a solid risotto and everything was cooked spot on.
Dinitto’s family seafood influences are evident with a nice selection of entrees and appetizers in that category. The Gamberoni alla Nostromo with sautéed jumbo shrimp, garlic, white wine, lemon and risotto is on my short list for my next visit. And yes, there will be a next visit. 264 Fresco has been added to my list of “go-back” places.
As mentioned, the bar is jumping and they have a nice craft cocktail program. Our server was able to pair a full-bodied white and a very smooth pinot noir flexible enough to work with everything we ate.
I should mention that there is a large portion of the menu with some of your Italian favorites and I was pleasantly surprised to see another Veal Parmigiana west of I-5.
The dessert was a special treat with a pair of frozen house made limoncello sorbets served in a champagne flute that were a perfect way to end the evening. The perfect blend of sweet and tart and just fabulous.
Lunch happens daily as well and a really nice-looking happy hour with pizza, small plate and drink specials. I’m going to make it a point to stop by both of those in the near future. I’m a big fan of 264 Fresco and would encourage putting it on your coastal North County destinations.
Find them at 264 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, (760) 720-3737 or www.264fresco.com.