Popular Georgia Italian restaurant plans to open a new location in Warner Robins

Amanda M. Rye

Jan. 22—A new Italian restaurant is coming to Warner Robins.

Christian Torres is planning to open a second location of his Tifton-based, family-owned Fresco Italiano restaurant.

He described the restaurant as casual fine dining.

“We want to be that neighborhood place where you can still go during the week and get a plate of lasagna and get a plate of pasta, and then, if you want to dress up on the weekends and get a steak or have a date night there, then you can do that too.”

Torres places an emphasis on quality food and on ambiance, planning to transform the soon-to-be former Ole Times Country Buffet location at 1208 Russell Parkway with a remodel. Ole Times is relocating to the former Golden Corral outside the Houston County Galleria in Centerville.

The buffet tables are going out, and wood fire grilling is coming in.

Torres said he expects to take some key elements from the Tifton location and duplicate them, but he also wants to make the restaurant unique to Warner Robins.

“We do a little research to see what people like in the market where we operate, but most of the menu— the classics of Italian dishes — we’re also going to have them there,” he said. “We’re big on steaks, too.”

Dining by candlelight

Torres plans to use the same interior designer for the new restaurant. He envisions candlelit dining.

“At nighttime, we do a lot of dim lighting and candles all over the place so it looks really nice for a date night,” said Torres, noting that Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest nights of the year for the Tifton restaurant.

“Every night, it’s part of our ambiance. We’re that place you go for a girl’s night out — maybe have a couple of glasses of wine, enjoy a few appetizers, or we can do the full dining experience.”

The restaurant will have have a full bar as well as a wine bar.

“Italian restaurants are big on wine … paired with the food, or just to have a glass of wine and keep that conversation going,” Torres said.

The Tifton location is known for its steaks.

The restaurant uses well marbled, 100% black Angus aged steak cooked with a hint of smoke.

“On the weekends, we’re kinda like an Italian steakhouse,” Torres said. “Steak goes well with pasta. Steak goes well with salad. It goes very well with an Italian themed restaurant.

“But also we are very well known for our fresh sauces. We make everything in house. We only source the freshest ingredients. We use the best produce that I can get it. So lasagna is very popular dish. We have the eggplant Parmesan. It’s another popular dish.”

The restaurant also does a lot of salads.

Wood fire grilling

“Everything that is protein, we try to grill it, charbroil it,” Torres said. “A lot of open fire grilling, that’s another characteristic of our cuisine there at Fresco Italiano.”

Diners can expect to be able to see their food cooked at the Warner Robins location.

“I like to have open kitchens,” Torres said. “I think it’s a nice part of the ambiance of a restaurant … where people can see how the chefs are cooking your food.”

Torres, who enjoys cooking, said diners can expect to see him at the grill on weekends from time to time at the Warner Robins location.

Also, he pans to add a small patio in the back of the restaurant for outdoor dining.

Under the umbrella of Torres Hospitality Group, his family also has a Mexican restaurant, Old Mexico in Sylvester, and a food truck, Rocco’s Italian Street Food, based out of Moultrie.

“All family owned,” he said. “Me and my wife and my brothers we started this company some years ago.”

The family first opened Fresco Italiano in Sylvester in a former cotton warehouse and later relocated the restaurant to Tifton in part of a former tobacco warehouse.

“It was a big a tobacco warehouse, and we fell in love with the concept of renewing the space,” Torres said of the Tifton location. “It was a long building, so they made apartment buildings on the back of it, and in the front of it, is the restaurant. And it works very well.”

Torres said he expects to start the remodel in two to three weeks after Ole Times is out of the Russell Parkway location. He plans to hire about 50 to 60 people for the new restaurant. He hopes to open in the spring or early summer.

“It’s not going to be completely like a cookie cutter restaurant,” Torres said. “We don’t believe in that. We want to be part of the Warner Robins community where we operate.”

Tequila and taco bar — maybe?

Torres said he’s also thinking about trying out a new restaurant concept in Warner Robins: a tequila and taco bar he plans to name, Uno Mas Cantina. He’s considering potential site locations.

“It’s a fresh approach to modern Mexican cuisine,” Torres said. “Mexican food they’re going to relate it to tequila, right? So we have this bar with a lot of different tequilas …and the taco bar is more like a bar where you go and sit down and you see how they prepare the tacos right there for you.

“You have mesquite wood grill with the meats thrown on the open flame there for you. They’re chopping the meats right in front of your eyes. We’re doing fresh made corn and flour tortillas … You can sit there and you can be chatting with the chefs if you want to — kind of like the experience you would have if you go to a taco shop in Mexico.”

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