Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rocco's Cafe: As seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

Saturday Date Night: September 18, 2010 @ 6 PM

It was one of those days when I wanted --no--NEEDED comfort food in a bowl. With parmesan cheese. And noodles. Lots of noodles.

And I found Rocco's thru Opentable. Little did Enrique and I know that we were venturing into Food TV land.  Rocco's was featured on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-ins and Drives" on the Food Network.  Of course, we overheard this information from the diners next table.  They made a special trip from Danville to checkout Rocco's.

Rocco's is a 19 year old Italian-American restaurant located at SoMa where a diner is still not out of character in the neighborhood where newly built pricey lofts grudgingly co-exist with the hotels for "down and out."  Rocco's interior was designed to evoke nostalgia in a staged kind of way.  The walls were covered with memorabilias, posters and pictures including DD&D's host Guy Fieri's.  The place does not have the greasy smell of a true diner nor the floors sticky with spilled coffee. Overall it was a cool little modern candle-lit diner.

What set Rocco's from a "true' diner was the very attentive service we received. Our servers were very efficient and must have checked on us 6 times during dinner.

Our complimentary bread basket disappeared and was refilled as soon as we devoured the delicious crusty bread.  It was served with garlicky olive oil  for dipping which was pretty heavy for an olive oil.

Delicious crusty bread with garlic olive oil dipping sauce
 We started off with the Garlic Fries which were hot, garlicky and not greasy. Delicious. The portion was on the smallish side.

Garlic Fries
 I chose the Calamari Saute over Angel Hair $18.50  (instead of the fettucine noodles that was listed on the menu.) What I got was a pasta dish that was loaded with calamari rings in marinara wine sauce. I happily stuffed my face with calamari rings bite after chockful bite. Despite the generous portion of my pasta, the taste was "just okay."  Although I could taste the squid ink in the sauce, for the most part the whole dish was salty and lacking in flavors.

Sauteed Calamari over Angel Hair
 The saddest story of the night was Enrique's "14 Oz. Grilled USDA Choice All Natural Rib Eye Steak Topped w/ Sautéed Mushrooms" $23.00. Never before have I witnessed Enrique not finishing his steak and play with it after a couple of bites.  It was thin-sliced and buried under a pile of veggies.  "The used low-quality meat and was tough," according to the poor carnivore.

Grilled Ribeye Steak
 At the end of our dinner, Chef Don (Rocco's grandson), also known as Double D, came out to see how we were doing and went from table to table greeting diners. Chef Don's family tree in San Francisco go all the way back to the 1920's using recipes that traveled from Italy which were served in San Francisco restaurants for decades.

Knowing Rocco's was featured on the Food Channel was the thrill of the evening although we did not find out until we got there. It was a good thing because our hopes would have been severely crushed with the not-so-appetizing food that we had. I felt sorrier for the diners mentioned above who made the long trip from Danville to check out Rocco's. I don't think it was worth the gas.

Chef Don might not have been Tyler Florence but it was nice to meet the man in person before watching him on You-Tube later where I found the episode where Rocco's was featured on "Diner's, Drive-ins...."

Overall our dinner was cozy. I still enjoyed my dinner although Enrique did not. He really liked the garlic fries, though. Would I got back? Definitely! Despite the average food, there was something charming about Rocco's. Maybe the nostalgia, the tea light on the table, the efficient staff or the big bowl of comfort in noodle form.....Who knows? At least now I know what to expect.

Tab: $ 70 including a glass of Argentinian wine, soda, tax and 20% tip.

FOODIE GIRL'S RATINGS: 3 Average-tasting comfort food
Steak:                               1 Tough meat that should be taken off the menu
Decor/Ambiance:             4  Cute, cozy "staged" nostalgic diner
Service:                            6   For a diner, we were treated like honored guests!


0 Star: Never again!!! These people should not be in business.
1 Star: Chalk it to bad experience. Live and learn.
2 Stars: Very disappointing but there it has some good things to offer.
3 Stars: It is okay but do not expect much. I will still return.
4 Stars: I like it! I will be singing your praises!
5 Stars: I will be dreaming of you at night!
6 Stars: Perfection (or close to!)

Rocco's Cafe on Urbanspoon

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