Cafe Fresco & Bakery is located at the corner of an unassuming strip mall on State Road 56 near Wesley Chapel. I drove by it hundreds of times without even giving it a second glance. One of my co-workers lives near it so after a meeting this summer we stopped by for lunch. Since then I have been there three more times. The place is nothing fancy, just down to earth dependable food.
The cafe was started by a Father & Son team with the purpose of bringing great food and fresh ingredients to the dining out experience. They chose their corner location in order to provide a bright, cheerful meeting spot for family and friends (and co-workers) to get together and enjoy themselves. The cafe’s menu includes breakfast, brunch and lunch (no dinner hours), homemade soups, fresh salads, sandwiches, personal pizzas and baked goods. By this I mean Artisan breads, muffins, coffee cakes, pies and pastries from the world over (Italian, French, Greek). These are baked fresh daily.
One of the first things I noticed on each of my three trips to the restaurant is the bread that they bring out to greet you. One visit it was homemade cinnamon raisin, another time it was cut up muffins. The third time it was a very moist and delicious banana bread (obviously because of the moistness I would have to say it was not vegan). I enjoyed the variety, each time being different than the last. The fact that they even included muffins as part of the introductory plan reminds me of my fine trip to the Colonnade (endless baskets of muffins, need I say more).
The incredibly moist banana bread
With the banana bread not being enough, my third visit saw my sister-in-law order a starter from the baked good case. It was a pastry that was filled with cherry. I decided not to try it because I had a) gorged myself on the free stuff and b) wanted to stay as vegan as possible. She had no problem finishing it all but getting her to comment on it was a different story. If the licking of the crumbs is any indicator, she must have liked it.
Unknown pastry filled with cherry
My other sister-in-law, who is somewhat of diet freak decided to forego all matters of baked goods and start with a gourmet coffee. Each day the cafe has seasonal specialty coffees as well as the typical espresso, latte and cappuccinos.
A shot of espresso
All of this is just backdoor fodder because what really brought me back three times was the food. While the cafes mantra declares the freshest ingredients one always has to be a little suspect. Hell Subway tells me to eat fresh and their idea of fresh must be something completely different than mine. With Cafe Fresco & Bakery I notice the freshness the most with their french fries. It is obvious that these bad boys, which come in both classic and sweet potato, were freshly cut. The restaurant does not over salt them or shower them in grease and the result is a fry that actually tastes like a potato. I have always gotten the fires as an accompaniment to my sandwich, meaning nothing specially flavored. My sister-in-law went with one of the flavored options the cafe offers. She ordered them Italian style with garlic, parsley, salt and covered in Parmesan. I refrained from tasting them because of the cheese, but the family loved them. On another occasion I tried my co-workers sweet potato fries (drizzled with honey). The taste was, again, very sweet potatoey and fresh but the honey made it way too sweet for me. I will stick with the classic french fries or give the pub fries a go.
All three times I’ve been to the Cafe, I’ve eaten the same sandwich. On one hand this is a problem, I can’t review many of the other meals. But this also speaks for how good the sandwich is. The cafe accommodates dietary needs (unlike Boca and the Refinery and some of the other downtown restaurants that give you what you get). My sandwich of choice has been the Roast Portabello Panini. It is ciabatta bread loaded with hummus and pesto, topped with a spring mix, tomato, onion, roasted red pepper, roasted portobello and provolone. I have always ordered it sans provolone. On my first visit, this made me a little nervous. Without the cheese how would it do? Both my co-worker (who ordered the exact same thing) and I agreed that the sandwich was great and didn’t need the added provolone. The hummus gives it a creamy feel, like mayo without the dairy and nasty taste, while the pesto provides a little oil shower of basil with each bite. The taste of the roasted vegetables is enhanced by being sandwiched inside the two condiments. The bread is light and fluffy, a great backbone for the dish. Other vegetarian/vegan sandwich options include a grilled cheese/tomato melt and garden wrap.
The Roast Portabello Panini
J-Fur’s dish of choice was the Fresco’s Spring Raspberry salad. It includes seasonal berries, red onion, cucumbers, blue cheese, toasted pecans and a Raspberry Vinaigrette. The day we went the berries were strawberry. Overall she liked the salad. Not being a blue cheese fan, there was a little too much for her liking and the vinaigrette was very sweet. But since it came on the side, she was able to control how much she put on (which wasn’t much).
Fresco’s Spring Raspberry Salad
With the proximity to work and home I will probably find myself at Cafe Fresco & Bakery many more times in the upcoming years. I’m ok with that. It will give me a chance to sample the dessert case and possibly branch out to try some other item.
Or it will allow me to keep doing more of the same (minus the initial bread which allows me no chance to fall into a rut).
Are we still talking nothing fancy? If that’s the case, time for a Jumpiter pairing. You may remember Jumpiter releasing like 50 albums in 2010 (4 to be exact). I could barely turn around before he had another release out. Then everything went quiet. For two long years I listened to the dark and depressing Bad God over and over (replace the depressing with dependable and it sounds exactly like my sandwich experience at Cafe Fresco). But things have finally changed. Last week Jumpiter sent a new release to his bandcamp page. This album is self-titled and upon first listen doesn’t seem to have the apparent story connection of the others. If there is a concept, it isn’t as easily discovered. Other than this, the album is very similar to its predecessors. It is a dependable piece of Brooklyn psych rock which combines lo-fi aestethics with droning guitars. It mixes in both up tempo numbers (like “Shouting”) with slower shout-a-longs (like “From Leonard Jensky). Three tracks worthy of listening to on the way to Cafe Fresco are the two aforementioned tracks as well as “Hole to Hell.” Get the album for five dollars from Jumpiter’s bandcamp page.