Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ciao, Forage and Fresco

Posted By on April 13, 2016, 4:00 AM

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Things that begin with F: Forage and Fresco Italian Cafe. Both Salt Lake City restaurants recently announced they are closing—not because their food was bad, but because the owners are moving on to bigger and better things. The restaurant biz is by far one of the hardest and most stressful paths to choose in life. I know because I've owned a bakery/catering business and a bar, and worked for years as a chef and a waitron in a variety of businesses around town.

Fresco is located in the back of the King's English Bookstore in the lovely 15th and 15th neighborhood just south of the Harvard/Yale avenues. I always tell buyers looking in that area that 9th and 9th is for folks who've just graduated, and 15th and 15th is for the folks who teach the graduates. Both the bookstore and restaurant space started in a Tudor-style stucco house on a rare, neighborhood commercially zoned street. The eatery came after Betsy Burton opened the bookstore, and it was first called Afterwards. Brother and sister Rick and Pam Davis put together a menu based on a book and author theme. For example, the tongue sandwich was named "The Virginia Woolfe," and the food was yummy. That place was sold and Pam and Rick bought an old ice cream shop on 700 South and 900 East and opened The Dodo restaurant. Deni Christiansen painted the huge bird in a tux on the wall. That restaurant was sold to David Harries and the location is now Trio restaurant.

My wife and I went to Forage once. We had to take out a second mortgage for the two of us to dine on a prix fixe menu of countless bite-size courses. Nothing on our plates during the evening was ever bigger than a 50-cent piece. We were told the chef would go out during the mornings and forage in the hills for things to cook with, like fresh mushrooms or cedar berries on trees. He would bring back his finds and create little bits and pillows of noms for patrons to try. Not many in Utah places do that. And Forage got so much attention and the chefs so many awards during its run that it seems odd it is closing. But new adventures are always exciting. You would have never guessed that the most expensive restaurant in town during its heyday was located below 500 East on 900 South, on a street of run-down bungalows and boarded-up foreclosures. Now the area boasts a brand new high-end hipster Greek restaurant, the Pig & A Jelly Jar, a tea shop, a Thai restaurant and more cafés to come. Way to gentrify, Forage. We'll miss your haughty but earnest influences.

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