(April 10, 2015) Deciding to close a popular and beloved restaurant is not an overnight decision.
It’s a culmination or confluence of events leading to necessary change. Pino Tomasello was, by his own account, ready for a transformative change that could not be possible at Fresco’s.
“I created it with many years of love and care. I gave 15 years to Fresco’s. I loved it and am very proud of the clientele we created with friends. We had many great years, but the time for Sello’s had come. I was too involved with the restaurant and had no life for myself or my family,” he said.
Tomasello had, for several years, owned the former Avery Gallery, a purple explosion of a hair salon (in its most recent former life) on Golf Course Road he decided to completely renovate in order to create Sello’s.
Out went the purple, in came sleek earth tones of copper awnings, rugged seasoned brown doors and wrought iron fixtures. In came a wood-fired brick oven, not just for pizza, but other dishes as well.
“I don’t want to repeat the same menu. We’re right next to the dock so I want to do Italian food with a lot of seafood. We have a brick oven, but it’s not a pizza place,” he said.
Tomasello also doesn’t want to compete with other area restaurants, almost all of which offer some kind of view of the water only a stone’s throw away. Sello’s has no windows; it has atmosphere. Even in its unfinished state, opening in just two weeks, the design elements that are in place generate an upscale, rustic feeling while the photographs, many taken by the man himself, add a splash of color.
“This one is right outside my house in Italy,” he said, pointing to a cascade of Italian cottages.
“I want people to come for a nice night out, perhaps without the kids,” he said, “Fresco’s, with Jive, was about 300 seats. You have to balance quality with quantity, and I’d never serve anything I wouldn’t eat myself, when you have to fill that kind of space,” operations can take on a life of their own, he said.
That was the life he was rejecting when he sold Fresco’s in favor of the 90-seat Sello’s.
“I love this little location, it’s just the way I want it. It’s a small place so I can cater to a specific customer. I’d like to get a younger crowd and have a little fun with a change in ambiance and atmosphere,” Tomasello said.
Younger, but not too young. Tomasello said Sello’s is targeting couples looking for a quiet night out, any time of year. The restaurant may close in January for vacation, but Tomasello intends to keep it running the rest of the year.
West Ocean City, Tomasello said, is less about the noise and bustle than the resort in summer, and he intends to create a space a little bit off the beaten path to provide that to people in the know.
While Sello’s will have a bar, it’s not affiliated with any one sports team. While there is a small area that could be used for performances, bands have not yet been booked. And, while he is trying to draw couples, he is discouraging them from bringing small children.
“You go to eat and you have small kids next to you and everyone around you is affected. So, if you show up we can make arrangements but we don’t have many highchairs here,” he said.
Pino and wife, Karen, live down the road from their new restaurant. They no longer need to fight bridge traffic to go to work in the morning or come home at night. They no longer need to worry about how to make ends meet by filling 300 seats each night.
“Everything comes with a price. This is just me, my wife and nobody else. No partners or anything. Just us. I’ve reached my goal: Fresco’s was one of the top restaurants. Now it’s time for a little fun.”