Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rocco's (rak-ōhz)

I hate November. It's dark out and getting darker and it's been unbelievably cold and I get cold in these dumb tights and there's been snow and one minute your sitting on your back porch "getting outside" with a cocktail and the next we're scraping ice off the windshield. Even the dark forces of evil are hibernating already, and even though zombies have been out since late October, they're no fun. Bored bored bored. Sigh. I guess you should know this: even superheroes get the blues.

What better remedy for Zena than to go on an adventure and eat out!!! Foodie Friend got out the Mini and we fought our way along trafficky roads into a sea of oncoming headlights like two salmon moving upstream (in our case, upstate) to try dinner at Rocco's, located at the corner of Main Street and Longkill Road in Clifton Park, NY. The parking lot was almost full at 5:30 on a Thursday - a good sign for a new restaurant (only open since October 2014). We raced inside, out of the wind, to a warm and warmly lit sanctuary of small tables and low laughter. Not at us, I don't think - everyone seemed to be enjoying neighborly conversation, and a couple of good drinks at the bar. Reservations a must (the dining area filled up quickly as the evening came on), we were welcomed at the side entrance (by a zombie - I can tell) and promptly seated away from everyone at the dozen or so tables that make up the dining area and put on display like a couple of mannequins in a shop window under bright lights near the front of the restaurant. Not easy to be cool and blogging undercover but good for taking pictures and notes. Kinda odd, that front space. And did I mention I also look better in low light???

Our waiter was attentive, sort of green but not a zombie, I'm not sure what though, a bit sweaty, but good at his job. We looked over the wine list and found about 13 by the glass. The list was organized "by style" - e.g., "Full Bodied", "Sweeter", "Full Bold Rich Flavors", etc. Very weird but it could by typical of Zombie organization. There was a lot of California wines, a few from Italy, France, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, but no NY wines. Tsk tsk. Oh, and ALL the bottles were $30 each. OK not sure what that was about - maybe trying to appear affordable (which it is!)??? FF was driving and opted out, so I ordered a glass of the Spellbound Merlot ($7.00) - a generous pour was delivered in a big crystal glass. The wine was rich, smooth, not complex, tasting of dark fruit (cherries), a bit of oak, and with a sharp edge that I really loved - very nice.

Water is served in a Ball Mason jar (left from the last business?) next to the lovely wine glass. The decor is confused but still comfortable. 
Our server returned and gave us the rundown on a few specials, including Veal Oscar (topped with crab, asparagus and hollandaise [$22.95]), a pasta dish of rigatoni, sausage and roasted cauliflower ($18.95), and a crab rangoon appetizer that didn't appeal (I think they are crunchy and greasy and overrated as food). Other starters (10 total, including a House and a Caesar salad) included mussels (on our night out served with a vanilla basil cream sauce), clams, crab cakes and arancini, as well as a butternut squash soup topped with candied walnuts.

FF decided to try the just four oysters ($1.75/each), which were varied in size and all smooth, perfectly tender, and mild. The mignonette sauce had serious bite (vinegar!), but the bit of fresh horseradish was amazing. 

We ordered our main courses and were asked, at one point, if we wanted more bread. I pointed out that we hadn't gotten any yet, so with an apology our server whooshed out and someone soon brought over a basket of the loveliest bread I've had in a while - chewy but not tough with a good crust that wasn't so hard that it cuts - served with a mixture of sweet ricotta, flavored with lemon peel and black pepper. A little too sweet for me, but a nice surprise - I liked the taste of the salty bread with that spread.

We didn't feel rushed but also didn't wait overly long for dinner to be served. The menu, which promises to change with the seasons (this was their FIRST menu, FYI), offered up five pastas (including Tagliatelle and Meatballs and a Orrichiette di Rocco's for the meat lovers, and House Made Cavatelli with spinach and caramelized onions for the vegetarians out there), and on the back of the menu were seven entrees, featuring dishes with sole, duck, lamb and pork, each with sides that weren't all the same for everything (thoughtfully put together) ($21.99 to $28.99). Something for everyone but there were not a lot of choices, which I think is a good thing, as I suspect in such places that the few dishes they do are usually done well. I would have liked to know more about their sourcing - are they local? can they credit the farms if they are? that sort of thing.

FF ordered the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($22.99), topped with a Ritz Cracker crust. The sauce was amazing - not thick and gooey at all. In fact it was intensely and incredibly rich and silky. The dish was loaded with large chunks of tender, tasty lobster (unlike others we've tried where there are small bits of a bit of lobster lurking in there somewhere). The crackers were sweet and buttery and a fun compliment. She tried to finish it - the bowls are deep (keeping the food hotter longer, methinks) so the servings don't look large when delivered - but despite a valiant effort decided finally to take some home for the next day. One of the best ever lobster mac&cheese dishes EVER!!!

I ordered the pasta special of no particular name - the one with the roasted cauliflower, which sounded weird enough to try since it was married into a traditional pasta dish. That first bite was divine - good enough for ANY superhero, goddess, etc. The cauliflower was cooked up tender but not mushy, the sweetness balanced by just a tad of red pepper. The sausage (not too much - I would have liked more of this and the cauliflower, I think) was hot and spicy. The sauce was really garlicky but delicious and not at all gloppy. My only complaint was the rigatoni was a bit too toothy and really could have cooked for at least another minute. This was also a generous serving that was better on the reheat the next day for lunch (to cook that pasta). 

Rigatoni special with roasted cauliflower and hot sausage, topped by our waiter with a grating of fresh parmesan cheese
There was no printed menu but there were five desserts available - tiramisu, NY style cheesecake, lemon tarts, apple tarts, creme brulee and a flourless chocolate cake. Wait that's six. Anyway, we didn't order anything, but our server brought us two still warm gratis brownies to try and they were tender and chewy and chocolaty and all things good AND I forgot to take a picture, we just dove right in. Everything was special and we were SO glad we decided to try what could prove to be the "go to" destination restaurant for this northern suburb of Albany. It's upscale - not cheap by any means but not overpriced either - Rocco's is approachable, comfortable, and welcoming. It was a very nice night out.

Dinner for two with 4 oysters, two pasta dishes and two glasses of wine (yes, cheri - two!!!) was $68.42 including tax plus tip.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

PS: There may be more zombies in Clifton Park than I was previously aware of. Please keep me posted if there are problems. Thanks.

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