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Beer-battered Pacific sea bass street tacos at Fresco Cocina in Carlsbad Village. Courtesy photo/Fresco Cocina
Beer-battered Pacific sea bass street tacos at Fresco Cocina in Carlsbad Village. Courtesy photo/Fresco Cocina
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Fresco Cocina: Carlsbad’s modern Latin cuisine

Restaurateur Linda DiNitto, the owner of 264 Fresco in Carlsbad Village, extended her village restaurant portfolio with the opening of Fresco Cocina, a few blocks from 264 Fresco.

Fresco Cocina pays homage to DiNitto’s upbringing in Venezuela, and her cocinas unite her Italian culture and childhood.   

With the help of seasoned executive chef Chris Idso and general manager Eric Ensch, the trio created a modern Latin American eatery influenced by dishes from Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and more, ranging from happy hour bar food to small plates to entrees.

If Idso’s name sounds familiar, it is likely readers have experienced his cuisine during his almost 20-year stint at Pacifica Del Mar as the executive chef and a managing partner.

Fresco Cocina is modern Latin cuisine representing dishes from Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and more. Courtesy Photo
Fresco Cocina is modern Latin cuisine representing dishes from Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and more. Courtesy Photo

I am new to Latin cuisine, loving the challenge of Americanizing traditional South American flavors, and I am having fun,” Idso said.

Idso is leveraging his strong seafood background to create exceptional entrees with fresh fish, steak and hearty sides such as black rice, plantains, beans, potatoes and squash.

I chose the Roasted Chilean Seabass Pibil baked in banana leaves and then finished with a pan-searing sauté to create a crisp, flavorful exterior.

This was served over black rice and chayote squash and topped with roasted corn salsa. Frank’s choice was an enticing Brazilian Churrasco prime skirt steak alongside fingerling potatoes, charred cippolini onions and broccolini topped with herb chimichurri.  

 Deck view of Fresco Cocina with ornate South American influence. Courtesy photo
Deck view of Fresco Cocina with ornate South American influence. Courtesy photo

We started dinner with Duros, which consists of delightful puffed wheat with a mole dry rub. This is the equivalent of tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant or bread at an Italian ristorante.

These, along with deep-fried plantain chips, were perfect for the newly released Brazilian Feijoada “Dip” created with slow-cooked black beans, braised short ribs, cured chorizo, tomatoes and queso fresco.

Kate, our outstanding server, was kind enough to “break the rules” and serve us the heavenly Feijoada, which is usually only part of the happy hour menu served at the bar Monday to Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. The Feijoada by itself is worth a stop to explore Happy Hour.

We also split the Braised Short Rib Empanada with pickled raisins, and the Beer-Battered Pacifico Sea Bass Street Tacos served on fresh pressed blue corn tortillas. Add the optional rice and beans to the three tacos, and you quickly have a meal.

Ensch is dual-hatted as the beverage manager and has created Latin-infused cocktails to equal Idso’s culinary creations. Together they are a dynamic duo. Fresco’s beverage choices are sure to please one’s palate.

Ensch harmonizes his cocktails with local craft beers and ales representing Latin flavors as well as wines from California and South America, leaving old-world wines and those from Washington and Oregon absent.

The exterior of Fresco Cocina, a modern Latin cuisine restaurant in Carlsbad Village. Courtesy photo/Fresco Cocina
The exterior of Fresco Cocina, a modern Latin cuisine restaurant in Carlsbad Village. Courtesy photo/Fresco Cocina

This completely fits with Fresco’s Modern Latin theme. I had the North Coast Laguna Baja and Dark Mexican Lager during our starters. Over dinner, I enjoyed an Antinori Haras de Pirque cabernet sauvignon from Chile that paired well with the flavorful Chilean sea bass.

Frank had the Trefethen “Eshcol” red blend from Napa Valley, a superb pairing for the Brazilian Churrasco. Frank and I were impressed with Ensch’s expansive wine list and the glass selections.  

A standout at Fresco Cocina is the different guest areas. These include the expansive, opulent wall-lit bars, the Deck with Latin music playing in the background, Pink Room (a private section off the bar with eight tables) and Grand and Baja Patios, perfect for dining, conversation and people watching.

The bottom line: Fresco Cocina, with its modern Latin Cuisine and unique vibe in Carlsbad Village, is a one-of-a-kind experience. We think our readers will love this new gem, whether it’s for lunch, dinner, happy hour, brunch, a group meeting, celebration, drink, date, catching a game or any affair.

Be on the lookout for Taco Tuesday throughout the entire restaurant coming soon. Congrats Linda, Chris and Eric on your exciting new creation. More information at frescococina.com.  

Wine Bytes

Experience the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival Oct 8th and 9th from 10 to 6 p.m. Festival guests can stroll on Girard Ave browsing a collection of fine art for sale while sipping regional and international wines. Lots of fun activities for the family. An all-star lineup of live talent is planned. Admission to the art is free. 21+ y/o can purchase tickets for the wine and beer tent. Make sure to check out the Louis Jadot section. Details at ljawf.com. 

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