OCEAN CITY — Fresco’s restaurant will be leaving Ocean City next week and a chapter will be closing for owners Giovanni “Pino” and Karen Tomasello.
But one door closing will mean that another opens in this case, as the couple will be opening a smaller operation in West Ocean City this winter called “Sello’s” with a new menu and new philosophy.
“I’ve been in Ocean City for half of my life,” Tomasello said. “It’s just time for a change, time to go over the bridge.”
Tomasello opened Fresco’s in 2000 with his wife, Karen. He has been a restaurateur in the resort since 1983 when he founded Pino’s Pizza followed by Giovanni’s in 1986. Three decades in Ocean City have been rewarding, said Tomasello, but the town can be hectic with a tremendous volume and West Ocean City represents a much-desired change of pace.
Sello’s will share a lot of the same principles as Fresco’s. Both are influenced by Tomasello’s Italian background and feature traditional dishes from that country. But where Fresco’s is a large, 200-plus seat fine dining restaurant, Sello’s looks to be more “Italian rustic” with an emphasis on using local ingredients in unconventional ways.
“My goal is to use fresh seafood from the dock and fresh produce from locals,” said Tomasello. “I’m already in place with a company that will do a strictly organic greenhouse.”
Wood-fired pizza will be a feature at Sello’s and while Tomasello remained a little secretive over the specifics of the menu, he did promise that all of the dishes will have a distinctive “Italian flair” and that there are going to be unexpected revisions to old favorites.
“The pizza that we’re going to make is going to be kind of unique. Instead of doing the usual pepperoni and mushroom, this is not going to be pepperoni and mushroom. This is going to be a little different. I want people to enjoy the flavors,” Tomasello said.
Besides the wood-fire pizza, Sello’s will feature a lot of the classic Italian cooking that has made Fresco’s an Ocean City mainstay for the last 14 years. There will be seafood, steak and pasta, all with an old country inspiration.
The menu at Sello’s won’t just be a carbon copy of Fresco’s, though, and Tomasello will be traveling back to his home in Italy this autumn to develop new recipes, tweak existing ones but most of all to rest up before his new venture. He expects to return to the shore and have Sello’s up and running by this winter.
“My first thing is that once I’m done here I’m going to Italy,” he said. “I’m going to spend a couple of months in Italy and then I’m planning on sometime in mid-February, to open by Valentine’s Day.”
Sello’s will be located on Golf Course Road and renovations are already about halfway done.
The operation will be scaled down as well. Sello’s is going to feature about 80 seats, and Tomasello expects more of a local crowd in West Ocean City compared to the thousands of visitors who roll through his Ocean City restaurant every week. That’s one of the things that he finds most appealing about the transition as the resort town tends to move at a breakneck pace during the busy season and Tomasello is ready for a slowdown.
He also offered some constructive criticism for the town, which Tomasello believes has been a bit overwhelmed by traffic and a slew of events that don’t always bring the most respectful crowds into the area.
Before the doors close, Tomasello wants Fresco’s to go out strong. October is the “Say Goodbye” month and everything culminates with their “Jiveapalooza Closing Party” Saturday, Oct. 18. The final day of service will be the day after.
Once Fresco’s closes its doors, the space won’t stay empty. Tomasello confirmed that Ropewalk, a popular eatery with locations in Baltimore and Fenwick Island, will be moving into the space on 83rd Street that Fresco’s is vacating.
As excited as the Tomasello’s are for the move, Karen said they will miss their regular customers, some of whom have been visiting for more than a decade. But she thinks that true diehard Fresco’s fans will be willing to go the extra distance and venture into West Ocean City while also appealing to area natives.
“My hope for Sello’s is that it becomes a regular spot for locals. I know many who don’t like to make the trip over the bridge in the summer,” said Karen Tomasello. “I hope the nearby restaurants realize that we are not there to compete but to enhance the West OC dining experience, so that customers can view that area as a progressive dining spot, with so many different options.”
The views will change along with the food and atmosphere but at its heart Sello’s will offer the same level of quality that Fresco’s is known for, she added.
“It won’t have to be a place just reserved for special occasions, but for anytime. I hope former Fresco’s customers will be receptive,” Karen Tomasello said, “and accept that they may not get the view that they were used to, but we are working hard to create an interesting atmosphere inside that will be inviting and unique.”