Che Fico, known for its innovative Italian cuisine, opened a Menlo Park location in Springline along El Camino this November. Following the hefty success of its San Francisco counterpart that debuted in 2018, the new Menlo Park establishment continues to uphold Che Fico’s reputation as a staple for pasta lovers. Customers have already started to rave about the engaged customer service and contemporary ambiance.
As one of three restaurants in the complex, Che Fico stands out. Both the restaurant’s interior and exterior feature a unique design of vibrant colors and patterns. Upon arrival, you are greeted by the bright red ceiling and abstract striped floors.
We opted to sit on the patio. Surprisingly, over 80% of the restaurant’s seating was outside, with only the bar and a couple of tables indoors. Even on a cold evening, the heating system kept us nice and toasty, and the soft background music drowned out the occasional blare of nearby trains.
Manager Ali Shaw said, “Menlo Park allows us to have a lot of outdoor seating because the weather is so nice here. I live in the city and I would not be eating outside at night in November.”
Although it has only been open for less than a month, it is clear that Che Fico is already a hit. Nearly every table was full, and new parties were constantly arriving.
Frittella Al Tartufo Nerio $18
After a short wait, our server brought out the first dish. The Frittella Al Tartufo Nero can best be described as warm bread balls filled with gooey cheese,topped with parmesan cheese and truffle. Upon the first bite, the cheese burst in our mouths, with the filling spilling out onto our plates. Despite the dish being a bit messy, we stille enjoyed it, and found the pairing of truffle and parmesan to be especially tasty.
Gnocchetti Sardi De Zafferano $32
Next, we tried the Gnocchetti Sardi De Zafferano, a semi-spicy pasta dish with ragu sausage, tomato, and pecorino cheese. This was by far our favorite order. The pasta was cooked al-dente, making it nice and chewy. The spice was there, but not bothersome for the average customer. As Che Fico designed their portion sizes to be made to share, the dishes left the two of us feeling satisfied.
Salami Piccante Pizza $30
We also ordered the Salami Piccante pizza, which featured spicy salami and chili honey on top of tomato sauce and melted provolone cheese. An elevated version of a traditional pepperoni pizza, it included a mix of spicy flavors from the salami that perfectly complemented the sweetness of the honey. The crust was soft and doughy, and the cheese was not overpowering, allowing the other flavors to shine. This flavorful pizza certainly exceeded our expectations.
Swirl Gelato $10
Finally, we decided to top off our meal with something sweet. The dessert menu only featured gelato, so we ordered a swirl of Fior Di latte (a simple sweet cream flavor) and Lemon Sorbetto. The restaurant offered a variety of interesting toppings, including, olive oil and flake salt, black truffle with salted caramel, and poached strawberries, but we decided to keep our gelato plain. Even with our plain gelato, the flavors still shone through. The dessert featured a perfect blend of tartness from the lemon sorbet and a sweetness from the milk, which melted together in our mouths. It was the perfect refreshing end to our dinner.
Our dinner was not cheap. For two people, we ended up paying about $130. If you are planning to dine at Che Fico, expect 20 dollar mocktails and pricey appetizers. Still, portion sizes were fair, and the quality of the food was amazing. While expensive for the average high schooler, prices at the restaurant are similar to those of most upscale Bay Area restaurants.
Before we left, we enjoyed our free parting gift of sweet almond cookies and spoke with Shaw a bit more about Che Fico. We asked her why Che Fico chose to expand from San Francisco to Menlo Park. She said, “The idea is that we’re treating the Bay Area as its own little region, almost like they do in Italy, to influence our menu and our dishes. So, expanding throughout the Bay Area is a way that we can really encompass and spread that kind of ethos throughout.”
“Menlo Park has a lot of energy. There’s a lot of different restaurants coming through and a lot of growth happening here. The idea is really just to kind of be a part of this big thriving change and community,” she said.
Che Fico is a modern take on traditional Italian cuisine, and, according to Shaw, “celebrates what grows here in California and puts it in the lens of Italian food.” She added, “It’s exciting to go to the farmers markets and introduce new produce to our menu, and we have chefs who are really excited to do that.”
Next year, the restaurant has plans to expand into a market about a block down, which will feature a gelateria, produce, and delicacies like cheese and charcuterie.