Fresca is coming back

The sign is gone, but after a dark year, Fresca is planning to reopen.

By SHELLEY HANDLER

When a popular Fillmore Street restaurant like Fresca goes dark, locals get curious. When it remains dark and untouched for more than a year, questions mount. Owner and executive chef Jose Calvo-Perez has now supplied some answers.

A staple in the neighborhood at 2114 Fillmore since 2002, this branch of the Calvo-Perez family’s group of three Peruvian restaurants has been dealing with a string of structural and related bureaucratic woes. The family has been looking to streamline the kitchen and refresh and brighten the look of the restaurant. And as anyone who has dealt with the city’s complex code requirements knows, permits — even for the simplest changes — take time.

“We love the Fillmore Street location. Our neighbors and customers are great,” says Calvo-Perez. “So we were willing to take whatever time necessary to work it out.” As time stretched before them, the family also took the opportunity to adapt the menu, shifting the focus from full entrees to an enticing range of small plates.

“We wanted to make it fun, lighten the tone, and give the customers a chance to sample and share a wider selection of dishes,” Calvo-Perez says. “The heart of our food is still authentically Peruvian, with creative local twists.”

The menu shines a spotlight on a bevy of ceviches, served with traditional garnishes of crunchy large kernel corn and sweet potato. A range of wood-grilled anticuchos will feature skewers of beef heart, shrimp and chorizo, octopus or vegetables. Even paella will get the small plate treatment, with individual portions of either traditional or squid ink paella, known as arroz negro. Lomo saltado, Peru’s savory saute of sirloin, tomato, onions and fries, will still hold pride of place.

It will still be a few months before Fresca 2.0 reopens. With a new 10-year lease freshly inked, Calvo-Perez aims at an early July opening, ideally in time for the Fillmore Jazz Festival, whose main stage is at Fresca’s front door.

In the meantime, Fresca’s Inner Sunset and Noe Valley outposts continue to hum. Calvo-Perez will also launch a weekend-only food truck dubbed Lomo Libre. Tapping lomo saltado ingredients, he’ll turn out lomo-based nachos, burritos and other saltado delights a few blocks down the hill at Fillmore and Lombard.