Restaurant Profile: Fresca Café and Gelato

Among the superlative new additions at Cary’s revitalized Waverly Place shopping center is Fresca Café and Gelato, a European-style destination that opened last spring.

Proprietors Alen Subasic and Jim O'Neill were neighbors and good friends who, along with their spouses, Sanja and Candida, teamed up to open the café . The business has struck a resounding chord with patrons since the day it opened.

Fresca serves up a diverse assortment of sweet and savory crepes, pastries, gourmet salads and sandwiches, and made-in-house gelato, among other enticing offerings.

“We place a strong emphasis on fresh ingredients and scratch-made specialties,” said Serbian native Sanja Subasic during a recent exclusive visit with Cary Magazine.

The café’s warmly inviting interior features sleek tables and chairs with purchasable modern art on butterscotch-hued walls. One side of the dining room features a distinctive rectangular electric fireplace with a nifty Eiffel Tower image emblazoned on the wall just above it.

“We wanted to create an environment that’s like an escape to Europe,” Sanja said, pointing to guests who come to relax and linger because they feel comfortable doing so.

An iridescent espresso machine churns out more than its fair share of cappuccino, latte and café au lait. Chai tea latte and hot herbal tea provide a solid alternative to a cup of joe. And if you’re not in the mood for a hot beverage, consider a refreshing Italian soda, frappe or fruit smoothie instead.

Want gelato? At any given time, choose from among 18 tempting varieties fashioned with ingredients imported from Italy. Popular flavors include mocha java, stacciatella (vanilla with fine bits of chocolate), roasted almond, limoncello and Donatella (chocolate with hazelnut).

For an unabashedly decadent yet impeccably balanced treat, try an affogato. Four scoops of gelato coalesce with a shot of poured-over espresso, and it’s all topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

In addition to gelato, Fresca also sells sorbetto, the Spanish version of water-based sorbet. Croissants, scones and artisan chocolate also vie for thoughtful deliberation.

The best-selling savory crepe, portabella and prosciutto, features lemon aioli, sautéed baby portabella mushrooms with prosciutto and Swiss cheese. Meanwhile, the strawberry, banana and Nutella creation is the front-runner on the sweet side, as it even comes with a dollop of vanilla gelato. A children’s menu features a mixture of sweet and savory crepes available in smaller versions.

Amid the crepes and confections are specialty selections like the croque madame with toasted white bread, black forest ham, Swiss cheese, French mornay sauce and fried eggs. Chorizo quiche showcases spicy Spanish pork sausage, fontina and herbed goat cheese on a flaky crust.

Elsewhere on the menu you’ll find the grilled chicken and vegetables salad, which contains mixed greens with pistachio vinaigrette, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Vegan- and vegetarian-friendly options are also well represented. 

“We have new people come in all the time for gelato or coffee, and then they see that we offer meals and even imported beer and wine,” said Sanja, a teacher by day who assists at the café whenever possible.

“I love that there’s nothing quite like this concept anywhere else in the area, and people have really embraced it,” said store manager Cristina Bradley, who hails from the Boston area but now resides in Cary. “We have regulars who come in, and I already know what they want when they sit down. We’re on first-name basis with a lot of them.”

One such loyal patron is Janet Hobbs, a retiree living in Apex.

“The crepes here are just dynamite,” she said, smiling. “I also love the Mediterranean salad.”

Hobbs says she enjoys coming to the café on weekdays and weekends alike. When the weather is nice, she takes advantage of the al fresco dining on the patio.

Service at Fresca is enthusiastic and welcoming.

“We have a great team of people here, and everyone behind the counter is like family,” Bradley said gleefully while ensuring the next item to be photographed was plated just right. “The staff is very accommodating if you have special requests or want to make adjustments to any menu items.”

Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fresca provides free WiFi Internet access and is available for group meetings. For details about in-store specials and live events, visit Fresca’s Facebook page by searching Fresca Café and Gelato.


Fresca Café and Gelato

Waverly Place
302 Colonades Way #109, Cary
(919) 851-8171

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