Parking spaces may be too narrow for my compact car in the free lot, but the food at Rocca was near flawless.
Arriving about 20 minutes early for our 7pm reservation at this Harrison Avenue hot spot in the South End during the outset of Restaurant Week, we headed to the downstairs bar and lounge area, a very chic open room in a semi-circle shape with extremely high ceilings, comfy chairs and sofas and sleek bartenders. We decided to indulge in a pitcher of Pink Lemonade, a very “booze-y” drink special the bartender explained, is refreshing and packs a serious alcohol punch.
After two more friends arrived, we were led upstairs and seated at a long table facing the outside windows in a dimly-lit and very modern dining room. I immediately informed my waiter that I needed to order all three courses for myself right away, be served as soon as the food was ready and have a separate check as I needed to leave by 8pm. He seemed lackluster about all of my extremely needy requests, but did exactly as I asked with a good deal of attentiveness and urgency. I greatly appreciated their flexibility in accommodating my time constraint.
The handmade vegetable gnocchi was my appetizer of choice. The gnocchi were delicious with summer squash, corn, zucchini, peas, caciocavallo cheese and fresh herbs. It was surprisingly light for gnocchi, balanced by the delicate and refreshing vegetables that were cooked perfectly. It was a nice way to start the meal without feeling too weighed down from a heavy cream sauce. Another appetizer offering was the farinata, a chickpea flatbread with caramelized onions, mushrooms and sage. It was crispy, warm and heart-warmingly satisfying. It reminded me of a cross between a tortilla espanola and a frittata. Farinata literally translates to “floured” and the one Rocca served up during my visit was delicious, if not served slightly too hot. Other appetizer choices include sauteed scampi, arugula and mint salad, tomato and fennel salad, and handmade whole wheat cavatelli with clams. The portions for all of the first course dishes were appropriately small yet satisfying.
I’d been feeling low on iron and couldn’t remember the last time I indulged in red meat, so I decided to order the grilled sirloin served with marinated tomatoes, arugula arancini and gorgonzola butter. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly cooked steak exactly to my specifications (rare thank you very much). It was perfect, delicious, pink and wonderfully seasoned. The minimal gorgonzola butter enhanced the dish rather than overpowering it. This may have been the best steak I’ve ever had, which is a huge thing to admit as a New Yorker. The arancini also were delicious, crispy on the outside and warm and smooth on the inside. Being a huge fan of arugula (as apparently the chefs at Rocca are since so many dishes included this greenery), I was extremely happy with my meal.
Another entree offering was the burrida, a Ligurian fish stew with fresh herbs, clams, shrimp, squid and white fish, served with pesto crostini. This type of Meditarreanean fare is a great way to try something new and and a little bit different. Roasted chicken with a zucchini, tomato, basil and crescenza cheese torta and sauteed wild mushrooms had a mild yet tantalizing flavor. The chicken was well-cooked and the dish was a great ode to summer eating, as was my prosecco float with raspberry sorbetto. It was the perfect end to a summer meal that was sweet and addictive. And while many aren’t a huge fan of the sweet sparkling champagne prosecco, combined with smooth and authentic raspberry sorbetto (yes I’m a poser and used the Italian word) it was perfect.
With an intricate and extensive cocktail menu, beautiful and interesting decor and atmosphere along with delicious, seasonal foods, Rocca is a great choice for Restaurant Week and beyond.