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DINING: Sandwich shop Fresco no mere supermarket sidebar

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Dining - A&E

As someone who should know better, I’m ashamed to admit that I thought through much of its existence that Fresco (320 N. New Jersey St., 423-2420) was a Marsh side business. Nestled in the Lockerbie Marsh the way Subway can often be found parked in a Walmart, Fresco doesn’t do much to stand out, visually, from its landlord’s surroundings.
 

ae-diningfresco01-15col.jpg Here’s the beef: Fresco sells its meat in sandwiches or by the pound. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Until, that is, you take a bite of the Italian Beef sandwich ($4.75/$7.25). Then you know you’re in a serious sandwich shop.

My first sign of hope for what I learned was an independent tenant: When I ordered at the counter, I was asked if I wanted my sandwich soaked, wet or dry. That’s the question purveyors of Chicago-style beef sandwiches are supposed to ask but rarely do in these parts. For newbies, it’s an instruction as to how much broth to douse on the beef. Soaked should guarantee a messy shirt. Wet should still be manageable as a sandwich, with some effort. (We won’t even talk about dry—that’s like ordering pizza without cheese.)

Fresco’s Italian Beef is one of the best of the breed I’ve encountered here. Parked in a properly supportive roll, accented but not overcome by the broth, and chewy without being fatty, the beef transcended. No surprise that you can also order it by the pound with broth and bread ($19.95 per pound) to upgrade your next party.

That’s not all that’s on the Fresco menu, but it certainly is where you should start. This and subsequent visits found a hearty, bean-heavy Minestrone Soup ($2.75/$4.25) and a fat Meatball Sandwich ($4.60/$6.95) generously slathered in mozzarella with a few whole pepperoncini on top. (Beware: They squirt.)

An Italian Sub ($4.60/$6.95) possessed a quality difficult to find in Italian food—lightness. Creamy mozzarella and tangy dressing balanced the salty and savory salami, capicola and mortadella. You can get wraps, too, or salads, and there are industrial-size shakers of spices to add to your order.

The only disappointment: an alleged Stromboli ($4.75/$7.25) that arrived not as a baked Italian turnover but as seasoned sausage and mozzarella spilling out of a sandwich roll. Now that’s not Italian.•

—Lou Harry

__________

Third in a month-long series of Cultural Trail restaurant reviews.
 

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  • Fresca is a wonder!
    This place is great.. I'm from Chicago and this is the only Italian beef that comes close. Besides that, the Canal is the perfect location for a sweet cafe like this!
  • Second Location
    They just opened a second location on the canal level of the Cosmopolitan apartments (310 W. Michigan, just north of the W Michigan and Indiana Ave. intersection).

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  1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

  2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

  3. It's empowering for this niche community to know that they have an advocate on their side in case things go awry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrst9VXVKfE

  4. Apparently the settlement over Angie's List "bundling" charges hasn't stopped the practice! My membership is up for renewal, and I'm on my third email trying to get a "basic" membership rather than the "bundled" version they're trying to charge me for. Frustrating!!

  5. Well....as a vendor to both of these builders I guess I have the right to comment. Davis closed his doors with integrity.He paid me every penny he owed me. Estridge,STILL owes me thousands and thousands of dollars. The last few years of my life have been spent working 2 jobs, paying off the suppliers I used to work on Estridge jobs and just struggling to survive. Shame on you Paul...and shame on you IBJ! Maybe you should have contacted the hundreds of vendors that Paul stiffed. I'm sure your "rises from the ashes" spin on reporting would have contained true stories of real people who have struggled to find work and pay of their debts (something that Paul didn't even attempt to do).

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