Rocca or Polka? (as in slow polka)


We had heard the food was good, but that the service was “hit or miss”… so we decided to check it out for ourselves last night. My friend Shalini and I spent Girl’s Night Out at Rocca Kitchen & Bar — located in the SoWa district of the South End. If you are unfamiliar with the term “SoWa“, it simply means South of Washington street. In other words, a very scary place to be at night until as of recently!

SoWa is supposedly the new “up and coming” part of the South End — so many new galleries, restaurants and boutiques are setting up shop here. Rocca is one of them. Since this location has historically been a pretty beat up area, there are still several abandoned buildings — providing FREE parking lots for places like Rocca and Gaslight Brasserie. It’s only a matter of time until these empty buildings are converted into condos and the like, so you may want to take advantage of the ample parking while it’s still available.

Shalini lives in the South End, so we huffed it on foot last night, walking through the newly redesigned Peter’s Park… sporting the first and only dog park in the city of Boston. If you have a dog, you should really check this place out… it’s quite beautiful.

We arrived for our reservations at 7:45pm and were seated right away. We immediately noticed the average patron age was probably between 40-something and 50-something… most likely suburbanites taking advantage of the free parking… so a young and hip crowd this is not. However, the decor, layout and overall feel of the place is really cool and quite interesting. Visit their blog for an overview of how this place came to be — from concept to completion. My favorite part of the blog? The fact that they visited and stayed in my honeymoon town while researching ingredients and ideas.

After being seated, it took some time for our waiter to make his way over. He seemed a bit uninterested, but I wasn’t sure if that was my perception based on negative expectations in the service department. I asked what wine he suggested, stating that I wanted a light, floral, semi-sweet (not dry) white. He suggested the Sauvignon Blanc, which is what I would have ordered anyway. When he brought the bottle and poured the taste for me, I took a sip and then looked up to him to indicate I was satisfied. He was looking off in another direction, not even paying attention. He didn’t even ask me if I liked it… even though it was his suggestion. Funny (and annoyingly) enough, the wine was not floral at all and in fact, was quite dry!

He came back, poured the wine, left it on our table (un-chilled) and took off again. A LONG time later, we flagged him down, told him we were ready to order and requested a chiller for the wine. He took off again to get the chiller — without taking our order. After another LONG time, he brought the chiller over, placed the wine in it and bolted again! By now, we were getting quite frustrated that we hadn’t ordered yet. Our bread finally arrived after that and without getting overzealous with details, let’s just say the rest of the night went the same — very slow service by our waiter, with downright disinterest in our needs. He did fill our wineglasses, but was very ungracious; bordering on rude.

On to the food…

We started out by sharing the Pumpkin Raviolis with almond pesto ($9) and the Hot & Sweet Scampi with citrus, fennel, hot peppers, fresh marjoram & mint ($13). Both were very good. The ravioli had a crunchy casing… almost reminiscent of crab rangoon. The shrimp was great… the spice was a perfect blend of hot and sweet, just as the menu suggested.

For dinner, I had the Spaghetti Poveri with tomato, lemon, pine nuts, anchovies, sage, parsley & basil ($13). I really enjoyed this. It was salty from the anchovies (which I liked) and the fried sage added a crispy interest. Shalini had the Buridda, a Ligurian fish stew served over crostini ($25). She seemed to enjoy this as well and it looked quite good from across the table.

We ended our evening with Pine Nut Custard Tart with fresh figs & whipped cream ($7) for me, which was very tasty, though a bit strange to have such an intense pine nut flavor in a dessert. The texture was different too, but I liked it. Might not be for everyone though. Shalini had the Cioccolata Bis, a chocolate ganache in a dark chocolate crust ($7). This looked creamy, decadent and rich.

All in all, a very good meal. Date night worthy? I think so… the decor is cool, the bar area is very hip and the menu is distinct (as far as Italian goes). Would I go again? Probably for a girl’s night out, but not otherwise. On a final note, I noticed a couple in the bar seating area with an infant! Another So. End restaurant catering to kids perhaps? Worth a try if you are willing to make the trek.

Rocca in Boston

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