The phrase al fresco is Italian. When used in the U.S. relative to dining or restaurants, it means outside, or in the fresh air. Sometimes you will see the term associated with concerts or performances as well.
When a restaurant offers an al fresco dining option that means that they have an outdoor patio. Many restaurants in the Greater Phoenix area are designed with outdoor seating, since we often have good weather. You will find people dining al fresco all year long in the desert. Even when it is hot in the summer, you'll see people eating on covered patios, some of which have misters to cool down the area. In the winter, you can find restaurants that have heaters and outdoor fireplaces or fire pits to keep you comfortable on those cool desert evenings.
I am actually not a big fan of dining al fresco. There are too many elements to consider! The temperature, breeze, dust, flies, uncomfortable chairs, views of parking lots and traffic.... Oh, alright, enough negativity! Many people do love dining outdoors, or al fresco. Advantages might be lovely surroundings, less stuffy than the dining room, beautiful surroundings if it is in a garden setting, less noise, more casual, often easier for children, and sometimes you can bring your dog! I admit that there are some wonderful restaurants around town with al fresco dining. My favorite? Lon's at The Hermosa.
If you go to Italy, I wouldn't use the term "al fresco" if you want to dine on the patio. Here's why the hostess may snicker: Italian Usage Error #7.
How about you? Do you prefer to dine al fresco when you are in Arizona? Which is your favorite restaurant for dining outdoors? Share your pick below.