Fresco by Scotto has been serving tried-and-true Italian classics in a clubby but comfortable dining room since 1993. Located on East 52nd Street, it has a reputation for being a great spot to plan a power broker lunch or to do some celebrity gazing during dinner, and with good reason: the food is approachable and well-prepared, and during a recent visit at the invitation of the restaurant, a household-name celebrity was seated at the table next to us.
The large, bustling dining room has a timeless appeal, with white tablecloths, light yellow walls, and abstract food-themed murals. Service is prompt and unobtrusive, and all diners received a complimentary order of potato zucchini chips and a couple hot slices of grilled pizza along with the bread basket on the evening I went, which is certainly generous. But don’t fill up on all that, however, because you’ll want to save room for what’s to come.
Beef meatballs filled with fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and provolone are served with whipped ricotta and mascarpone and are light, flavorful, and based on an old family recipe (the Scotto family, as the restaurant’s name might imply, owns the joint). A plate of burrata and mozzarella with apricot, fig marmalata, hazelnuts, and oven-roasted tomatoes is perfectly composed and dressed. Fresh homemade pastas, including whole-wheat pappardelle with duck and wild mushroom ragù and cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe are as good as you’ll find anywhere. For your entrée, opt to split the dry-aged prime rib Fiorentina, which was perfectly seasoned, nicely seared, and insanely flavorful.
It’s very difficult for a restaurant to stay in business for more than 20 years, but the Scotto family makes it look easy.