What Does Dining Al Fresco Mean?

Friends toasting together outdoors
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There's no better way to take advantage of great weather than to dine al fresco, enjoying food and drink under the sun or sky of an exotic locale. And few places are better for dining al fresco than Phoenix, the capital of and the most populous city in Arizona.

The phrase al fresco (ahl freh skoh) is Italian, and when used in the U.S. relative to dining or restaurants it means outside, or in the fresh air. Sometimes the term, often alternately spelled alfresco, is associated with concerts or performances as well.

When a restaurant offers an al fresco dining option that means that it has a patio or other designated outdoor area with tables and chairs that is usually serviced by waitstaff or bartenders. Many restaurants in Phoenix, including local favorite Lon's at The Hermosa, are designed with outdoor seating since the desert city often has good weather almost year-round. Even during a hot Phoenix summer, people eat outside on covered patios, some of which have misters to cool down customers in the area.

In the winter, many restaurants have heaters and outdoor fireplaces or fire pits to keep guests comfortable on cool evenings. If the weather is nice in February, dining al fresco on Valentine's Day can add to the romance, especially if the outdoor patio is surrounded by a garden.

There are a few downsides to al fresco dining, including bugs, wind, and dust, all of which can disrupt a quick bite or an elegant sit-down dinner. But for the most part, the pros outweigh the cons: gorgeous desert views, pet-friendly areas, less noise, and a casual atmosphere. 

Keep in mind that the meaning of al fresco changes depending on the destination. In Italy, for example, the term translates to "in the cooler"—similar to the English slang term that means to be in jail or prison. Instead, when dining outside in Italy, it's more appropriate to say all'aperto or all'aria aperta or even fuori.

But in Phoenix, whether you dine under the warm sun or enjoy an evening meal gazing at the stars, al fresco works just fine.