From Italy, with Love : Dining at Rocco's Capriccio

Lindsay Bull

I will begin this review by saying Italian food is one of my top three cuisines, so in my lifetime's experiences I have had the very good, the bland, and unfortunately the soggy. Visiting Little Italy’s Rocco's Capriccio (at 846 Fawn Street) fell into the category of the very good!

 

The feast began with some starters. We ordered the spinach salad, calamari fritti (fried calamari), and the highly recommended funghi portobello alla griglia (grilled portobello mushroom). The spinach leaves were very fresh and crisp. There were large slices of mushroom, and the bacon was the perfect size and thickness to lend that desired crunch and bit of smoky saltiness. The mixture was lightly tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette; enough to taste, without making the salad the least bit soggy. Unfortunately, I wish I did not have to say that the calamari was not memorable. I think larger pieces of squid would make for a better dish, as it was a bit dry. I’ve eaten fried calamari on just about every menu I’ve encountered, so I can be overly scrutinizing. But the marinara sauce for dipping was so fresh and bright, that we ate them all anyway! Now, the grilled portobello is best described as: wow. I am not a fan of gorgonzola, so I must admit I scraped that part off, but the Gargano family’s secret marinade made this dish hands down, the most amazing mushroom preparation I have ever tasted. We all loved it. There was basil underneath the garlicky mushroom caps, and melted gorgonzola on top. No single flavor overpowered another, as there was a perfect balance. My favorite way to eat this was to slice off a piece, then wrap it in a basil leaf. You must try this, mushroom lover or not!

 

We ordered a variety of entrees to keep it interesting and pick off of each other’s plates. Hey, Italian culture is centralized around families and sharing, right? This included the pollo alla marsala (chicken marsala), pasta Amatriciana, and linguine vongole (linguine with clam sauce). The chicken marsala was rich, with a pleasantly noticeable marsala flavor, a hint of tomato, and hearty slices of portobello mushrooms in the sauce. It was a bit creamier than we’ve experienced at other establishments in the past, but the portion was generous (including pasta on the side) and did not disappoint! While there was only enough belly room to finish half of the dish, it made for an excellent lunch to look forward to the next day. The pasta Amatriciana was a perfect dinner portion size, that is, had I not have eaten so much before the meal! Their wide, tubular pasta is always made in house by hand. And the welcomed difference was very noticeable in terms of flavor and quality. It was cooked perfectly al dente, with that tiny bit of chewiness I love in my pasta dishes. The tomato sauce tasted homemade as well, with plentiful amounts of pancetta, sliced onions, and flecked with fresh basil. While the dish’s name usually denotes some level of spiciness, I am admittedly immune to most things containing capsaicin, so I had to go heavy handed on the spicy stuff to get that kick. Topped with a heaping spoonful of red pepper flakes, this dish was satisfying and comforting, without being heavy. We altered the linguine with clam sauce, by adding in some calamari. The white clam sauce was light, more like a white wine sauce. It was a large portion (especially with all that seafood!), but did not feel like a task to eat, due to the sauce. The seafood was fresh, and the sauce was a perfect balance on all of the palates of the tongue. It was a suitable pasta dish for summertime.

 

Then there was dessert. “How could you possibly make room for dessert,” you ask? How could we not! Again, this is where sharing comes into play. We ordered the tiramisu and strawberries zabaglione. The tiramisu was not so much a hit. We loved the creamy topping on the cake, but the cake itself was a little dry. It could have been one of the last slices of a large cake, in which this can happen. A little more espresso would help with the texture and flavor. But the topping on the cake was delicious! You might be thinking that strawberries and cream is uninspired or boring. Oh, this was not! These beautifully red, ripe strawberries were bathed in marsala wine and cream. The cream was perfectly chilled, smooth, and rich, and the flavor of the marsala wine was spot on. I am still craving those strawberries. There was so much luscious cream, that after we finished the berries, we had to talk ourselves out of wanting to drink the cream. We just couldn’t let it go to waste. But, it was almost closing time, and we were so stuffed that we felt like we needed to be rolled out of Rocco’s in wheelbarrows.

 

Final opinion? You must start with the grilled Portobello and gorgonzola appetizer. It seems you can’t go wrong with any of the authentic Italian dishes, whether pollo, del mare, or pasta classico. I’m sure the others we did not try will not disappoint. The food here is made with love, by Rocco, the owner himself. He’s a true Italian, and it shows. This kind of food makes one feel at home, yet the atmosphere still lends a romantic touch for date nights or special occasions. And if you find yourself in Little Italy for a stroll after you’ve eaten dinner at home, stop in for the strawberries zabaglione. They are worth the trip alone. I dare anyone to disagree with my opinion of them. Happy feasting!

 

See additional photos of this dining experience online here

            


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User Comments

Betty says
August 07, 2012

Great article. I'm ready to go!




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