Gallery: Fratellos [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Cara Elise Taylor
Fratello’s Restaurant has recently completed the move to their new, larger location in the Krikorian Plaza. First opened in the Ocean View Plaza acrosss the street in 1996, the restaurant has long since flourished into a community treasure. This is achieved in the soft lighting and checkered table-cloths nostalgic of family-owned Italian restaurants of the past. It’s also achieved in the service, genuinely intent on your happiness. Mostly, it’s made clear in the food.
The menu has an array of time-honored Italian dishes that are well-priced and well-portioned. The caprese salad was incredibly fresh. Even more impressive was the fried calamari. It had been perfectly cooked, and not too heavily battered, making it a delight when sprinkled with lemon juice and dipped in their signature marinara. Each starter was delicious and under $13.
The wine selection is vast, so instead of doing the dance of pairing with my food, I ended up trying a recommendation based on my craving for Pinot Noir. It was Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir. I was able to sample a Sterling Cabernet, but I liked that the Pinot had notes of stone fruit and cherry, and was sweeter than it was dry or bright. The server seemed elated to hear that I liked her suggestion, which made the place feel wonderfully more approachable. The glass was $11.
Entrees at Fratello’s are proportioned and served as all comfort food should be; large enough to have leftovers, and steaming hot. On the table there was Chicken Cacciatore, Fettuccine Alla Pesto, and Fra Diavolo. The Cacciatore was a touch too sweet, but paired well with some angel hair pasta. The Pesto was a creamy one, mixed with alfredo sauce which gave it a richness that seemed unconventional. It was the Fra Diavolo with Penne that stole the show.
Their pasta menu lists sauces, and gives those who dine a chance to pick which pasta they’d like to pair with a sauce. I decided on penne, which was perfectly al dente--an achievement that is crucial to good Italian food. The little tunnels in penne were the perfect vessel for the tomato-based Fra Diavolo: a simple marinara sauce with garlic, basil, and “spicy red pepper if you like it hot!” exclaims the menu. It had tanginess, and bite to it. It was spicy in the correct way, a way that lived up to its claim on the menu. The salt level was appropriate, the basil was fresh yet again and the garlic was omnipresent in the best way. It warmed me to the core, and I had to push the plate out of my reach in order to maintain any of it for leftovers. Each dish was under $17, the Cacciatore being the priciest of the three.
The meal was wrapped up with coffee and cannoli. The coffee was warm and soothing much like the atmosphere of the place, and the cannoli tasted like the best part of a birthday cake (the frosting, of course) stuffed into a chocolate coated wafer. Eight dollars for the cannoli and a few more for the coffee, put the bill at around $100. A tasty dinner for three at that price is refreshing. I left feeling content and excited to return to try more of the culinary delights that tasted like they were made by someone’s Italian mama.
Fratello’s (San Clemente) is located at 647 Camino De Los Mares, San Clemente