It took some doing after all of this time but a group of us were finally able to obtain a table at Rocco. I've eaten at the bar before so it was nice to finally be able to sit and enjoy a meal.
I think what I like best about Rocco is that it is a small and simple menu executed very well. From the beginnings as a pizza place, which they do very well, it has morphed into something quite wonderful with the additional offerings.
The grilled octopus is a wonderful appetizer. I'd highly recommend it. They do a nice job of charring the octopus just so which results in it being very tender. I've had the dish three times now and each time, they've done it just right.
The salads are solid - the asparagus with cheese pudding (had it last evening and loved it), the gorgonzola & walnut offering (traditional, but again, done very well), and the escarole & radicchio are all a great break either before the main course or after the appetizer (I always prefer my salads after the main to course to cleanse the palate). A friend tried the arancini and pronounced them excellent. I wouldn't know. He ate the entire thing without sharing . . .
The pizzas, as I said, are always done quite well but a few of my favorites on the menu are the pasta dishes - the gnocchi is made fresh and oh so tender, not potato but semolina and that's an interesting twist. The lasagna with three cheeses comes a bit different than you might expect but is quite good. But if they have a special, order that and not from the regular menu. You won't be disappointed. As with all pastas, it's all about the sauce and they do spend some time to create some complexity in their sauces which I appreciate. I think they do a superb job with the cream based sauces (I'm very particular about my taste in red sauces, but they are still wonderful).
Last evening I passed on the other offerings to try the lamb, which I dearly love when it's done correctly and here it was. Perfectly very rare, charred on the outside and bloody red on the inside. A big and hearty cut and at only $26, a very good price for lamb.
I do wish they might expand their offerings for dessert. The butterscotch budino is heavenly. This is something that I've since had elsewhere (at the new Avinno restaurant), that was poorly replicated. I'm not a big fan of butterscotch, but here the flavors meld so well. It's just an awfully rich dessert and at times, I could go for a few other simple offerings but then again, Italian restaurants don't leave you feeling unsatisfied with something light so I guess I just have to buckle down and eat!
It's always bustling, so Rocco's isn't where I would take someone for a romantic meal. For an intimate fine dining experience, I think a place like Warfield's is much higher on the list, but it's a great place to enjoy downtown. Wonderful if you can get in with clients as they'll leave very impressed with their experience and it's important to have that kind of scene in downtown where the foodie scene struggles a bit.