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Frescos in Wexford rises to the challenge

| Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010

Susan Sansale believes this is a great time to be in the restaurant business.

Frescos, in the Wexford Flats, has enjoyed steady growth during the eight years it has been open, she says.

Sansale, the owner, attributes their success to the staff listening to their customers, and acting on their feedback.

"The restaurant business has changed a lot," says Sansale, a McCandless resident who has culinary training and has been in the food business for 20 years. "People are looking for more local and healthy, but flavorful, food. The economy gave us an opportunity to know what our customers want. The challenge is that everybody has less money to spend, but diners are more adventurous."

Modeled after a rustic European country inn, Frescos' atmosphere is pleasant, warm and inviting. Taupe walls, wooden tables and chairs, and intimate booths are softly illuminated by recessed lighting as well as the beautiful mosaic chandeliers that hang from the ceiling.

The restaurant seats 60 in the main dining room, and offers private dining rooms, a full-service bar and 100 seats outside during the warmer months. Sansale also operates Chadwick Events, a catering venue at the same location.

"It is our neighbors who live within five miles of us who come in frequently and have made Frescos their local destination," she says. "People are more health-conscious and cuisine savvy. They're not looking for the biggest cut of meat, but a higher-quality cut prepared in a unique way."

A certain factor in Frescos success, Sansale believes, can be attributed to the executive chef, soft-spoken David Evanoff. Evanoff, who has worked as a chef for 25 years, came to Frescos six years ago.

"Chef Dave brings an enormous background of training and execution," Sansale says. "He respects every talent in the kitchen, and has a team of diverse and talented people. He has no interest in being a celebrity chef."

Evanoff, a Ross resident, graduated from North Allegheny High School in 1980 and served in the Air Force for four years in the 1980s. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park in 1989.

"I've always loved food, and I fell into a couple of jobs and got hooked," Evanoff says. "I worked in Vermont after CIA, and then came back to Pittsburgh."

After stints at the Sheraton Inn North, the Oakmont Country Club and a large Pittsburgh catering company, Evanoff accepted the job at Frescos.

"Our philosophy is to bring flavor to the forefront of each dish by using fresh ingredients and putting them together in a complementary fashion," Evanoff says. "We take customer feedback into consideration when planning the menus."

Frescos' menu changes seasonally and is a collaboration among Sansale, Evanoff and the four other chefs. Special requests are not only accepted, but welcomed. And the culinary team serves many dishes that are gluten-free, nut-free, low-fat, and low-sodium.

"A chef is only as good as his staff," Evanoff says. "I don't know everything possible there is to know about food, so I rely on the strengths of my staff. At this stage in my career, I want to let people shine in those areas."

Signature dishes at Frescos include fig bourbon-glazed grilled pork chops, Sicilian meatloaf, and a char-crusted ribeye steak. Evanoff enjoys creating seasonal items such as pumpkin marscarpone ravioli with smoked tomato butter sauce; cinnamon chipotle-seared tuna with butternut squash aioli; and feta-and-spinach salad with apple cider vinaigrette.

Entrees include garlic peppercorn tilapia, seared scallops, brown sugar-glazed Canadian salmon, chicken penne vodka pasta, and butternut crab mac and cheese.

"Our dishes have a traditional base rooted in a European style with a bit of current American flavor," Evanoff says. "Paragon provides us with most of our locally grown produce and fresh fish, but local bakeries provide us with pastries and cakes, and a local butcher shop with handmade sausage."

Sansale says the restaurant business is "very rewarding."

"The most challenging aspect is staying current and being aware of new trends," she says. "The best part is that I'm always in an environment where people are enjoying themselves."

Holiday Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Fig Balsamic Sauce

Chef David Evanoff is sharing the recipes for his popular Holiday Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Fig Balsamic Glaze and Red Pepper and Artichoke Heart Risotto. The pork comes out succulent and flavorful, with the balsamic glaze adding a welcome slight sweetness. It pairs beautifully on the plate with the creamy risotto and would go well with a nice pinot noir.

The sauce is best if made up to one day prior, to let all flavors bloom.

For the pork:

  • 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons premium olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 4 dried figs, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

To prepare the pork: Rub the tenderloin with the sea salt, cracked black pepper, roasted garlic and Old Bay seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a pan and place the tenderloin in it to brown. Turn the tenderloin to let all the sides brown (see Photo 1), for about 2 minutes per side. Place the tenderloin in an ovenproof pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into thin slices (Photo 2).

To prepare the sauce: Combine the apple juice, marmalade, cranberries (Photo 3), brandy, sage, figs, vinegar and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced by a third. Thicken the sauce slightly by mixing the cornstarch and water together, and then slowly adding the mixture to the sauce.

Top the pork slices with the warm sauce and serve with Red Pepper and Artichoke Heart Risotto.

Red Pepper and Artichoke Heart Risotto

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons premium olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fire roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch freshly ground white pepper

In a small saucepan, dilute the chicken broth with the water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer.

While the broth is simmering, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the red peppers, artichokes and rice and stir for 1 minute or until the rice is coated with the oil. Add the white wine. Cook for 1 to 3 minutes until the wine is absorbed.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat three more times, each time adding 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stirring until it's absorbed.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the cheese and heavy cream. Add white pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Additional Information:


Cuisine: American with European influences

Hours: 4-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday brunch: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Entree price range: $14.95-$25.95

Notes: Major credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible. Reservations recommended. Weekly seasonal specials. Occasional wine tastings. Seasonal patio seating for 100, with entertainment in the summer. Private dining rooms available in addition to the 60 dining room seats. Two meals with salad, entree and dessert for $25 on Thursdays.

Address: One Wexford Square, off Richard Road, Wexford

Details: 724-935-7550 or website

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