I love great food and I love finding new places to eat. So when I was invited to join a group of friends for dinner at Rocca in the South End I was hoping to find both. I have had some amazing meals in the trending neighborhood known for its restaurants, art galleries and gay population. Before heading out, I took a look at Rocca’s website to get a sense of the place and to check out the menu. The website was a strange mix of default fonts, catch phrases and picture collages but easy to navigate and provided more info than anyone needed. I also saw that the executive chef was on the TV show Top Chef. Bad website aside, I hoped for the best and prepared for my night out.
We arrived and were greeted immediately by friendly, young hostesses who suggested we wait at the bar until our entire party arrived which we did. We were presented with a drink menu by a silent bartender who was clearly uninterested in any banter. I ordered a lemonade-ish sounding drink that tasted more like grapefruitade. The comedian Gary Gulman does a bit on grapefruit in fruit salad that expresses my sentiment about this drink. Once the rest of the party arrived we were seated upstairs in the sleek and dimly lit dining room which was only three quarters full. Our waiter was a helpful and friendly fellow who is a graphic designer be week and making extra money as a waiter on the weekends. His skills and personality were that of a professional waiter which is unfortunately rare and sounds less impressive than it actually is. The wait staff can make or break a restaurant for me and this gentleman was unfortunately the highlight of the restaurant. The waiter gave us our menus which are printed daily with the restaurant staples and a few dishes based on the fish availability of the day. As part of his routine, the waiter explained how to read the menu. If you have to explain how the menu works, then the menu doesn’t work. The menu was mainly seafood and pasta dishes with one chicken, one pork and one beef dish. We managed to wade through it and after a few decisive minutes, we placed our orders.
There were seven of us and we ordered four appetizers to share. The fries with eyes which were friend sardines were more batter and grease and than fish but the marinated eggplant and crispy artichokes were absolutely delicious but very small portions. The swordfish belly escabesche was so small it was eaten in two bites by two other people. The entrees arrived after some wait but arrived hot and all together. The woman next to me ordered the grilled lobster panzanella which looked like a pile of disaster in a soup bowl but was described as “fine”. The woman across from me had the scallop dish of the day which she also said was fine, but the three scallops were not enough to constitute a meal. I ordered the black cod in a bacon broth which looked elegant and was a sizable piece of fish cooked to perfection. The only problem with the dish was that the broth was so smoky that it overpowered the dish. I have eaten barbeque ribs at Neely’s in Memphis that had less smoke than this dish. Since most portions were small, we all had room for dessert and ordered three desserts to share despite the warning that the chef is not a pastry chef. The two butterscotch budinos were fantastic but the banana gelati was a peanut buttery mess that left me wondering why it was on any menu outside of a preschool.
Overall the company was good, the atmosphere was nice but the food was only chi chi mediocre. Is it a go again? No.