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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge: Getting Fresh with the Fresco Cafe

Entrance to the Fresco Cafe in Bozeman, Montana.

On a recent Saturday, one of our postcard-perfect summer evenings that single-handedly erase those hard feelings that linger after the previous season (the one that shall remain unnamed), a friend called me up out of the delicious blue.

“My dad drove up today from Wyoming, and you should join us for dinner.”

After chiding him for the impropriety of assuming that my Saturday night wasn’t yet spoken for (it wasn’t) and knowing how he cooks (he can’t), I asked where they were going.

“That’s a bit of an issue. We just drove by the Aleworks, and the line is out the door. I can’t think of anywhere else to go.”

Know the feeling, Bozeman? Once you clear the table of the space-cadet servers and over-priced burgers, after you’ve bounced around the same two or three downtown restaurants summer, fall, winter, and… and… (I just can’t speak its name), after all that, our little cowtown starts to appear very little and very bullish.

What we need is an enchanting neighborhood cafe. You know the tidy enclaves, family-owned and dripping with quaintness, the chalkboard menus and cute bistro tables under a Chalkboard menu at the Fresco Cafe in Bozeman, awning (the kind that would make the Barefoot Contessa swoon). Any night, any time, you can just walk down to the corner and they’ll have a table ready, one so cozy that your brown-eyed waiter can just barely squeeze himself and his crisp white apron behind my chair (TMI? Maybe it’s a flashback from last month’s column on the Café Francais des Arts – regardless, just stick with me). Bozeman needs a couple of those adorable little places sprinkled around town, though I imagine most would settle for just one.

But wait, we do have one; there’s the Fresco Cafe on North Seventh Avenue. Owned by Susan and Bill Neubauer, he a third-generation restauranteur and she a native of NYC, the couple lives and breathes quality food and have 15 years of experience gleaning it from the Gallatin Valley.

And so, off to the Fresco the four of us went.

Let’s get right to the star of the show–the food. The ladies of Bozeman rave over the Fresco’s salads, though there’s some contention as to the fan-favorite (an admirable problem to have). A girlfriend of mine from farm country is obsessed with the mixture of chicken and corn on the Fresco Salad while the Caesar easily musters up to the standard of an Italian cafe, but for me, it was love at first bite with their Manhattan Salad. The sliced green apples! The currants! The Gorgonzola! When our table of four agreed to order it “family style,” I could have sworn I heard applause.

(Note: all three salads and about half of the Fresco’s entrees offer a “family style” option. If you’re lucky enough to have a family that can agree, the orders are typically 4-5 servings for the price of three. Throw in the nominal, $10 corking fee or the fabulous entrees that seem a steal at $9-$13, and you’ll find something else lost on downtown Bozeman, great value at dinnertime.)

The list of Fresco entrees presents even more of a challenge than the salad selection. (FYI, I go through favorites there like Kim Kardashian goes through professional athletes.) First, I’ve had a love affair with lasagna since before my first training bra, and the house Bolognese version makes a mouth-watering suitor. Next, “Anthony,” my passionate Italian-American “friend” from New York turned me on to the pesto-and-chicken TriBeCa panini at the Fresco Cafe in Bozeman, Montana.Cavatappi (the affair with this delicious dish lasted longer than our romance). But lately, I can’t keep my hands off their homemade ravioli. Wrapped around incredible Prosciutto di Parmi and served under a coverlet of lively marinara sauce, the ravioli is fabulous. Ms. Manners would probably roll in her grave but I simply cannot resist sopping up the last of the red sauce with the Fresco’s homemade garlic bread.

And the best part is I can justify this carb-fest with a lovely walk home after dinner. The Fresco Cafe is a just a few tree-lined blocks down from my apartment. This is great considering that the cafe is open Monday through Saturday for lunch, too, with the crispy-goodness of the many house paninis – my fav being the chicken Gondolier with spinach and oven-roasted tomatoes. Although my wallet (and my jeans) might not be as happy about the Fresco’s accessibility – I am just thrilled. -BM

Contributor photo for Beverly Ridge, the Bozeman Magpie's food critic extraordinaire.Beverly Ridge is the area's first regularly featured restaurant reviewer.  A native of the valley and a veteran of the food service industry, she's a virtuoso on all things epicurean.  She's also made it a personal mission to protect Montana diners from the fleecing imposters, the lazy sourpusses, and the just plain rotten.


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