Ever since I first reviewed Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar, in October of 2006, I’ve considered it to be one of the finest Italian restaurants in the area. And since I don’t get the chance to return often enough, I jumped at the invitation to dine there recently to try some of the dishes that owner Rocco Potami rotates through his menu.
Potami started by serving my guest and me an appetizer of Bresaola, the air-cured beef that is a specialty of Northwest Italian, and fresh Burrata, often known as a creamier mozzarella. The cheese was topped with shaved Parmesan and fresh arugula leaves. Potami admonished us not to put any pepper on the burrata, which I probably would have done to perk up the mild cheese. But with the peppery notes of the arugula, nothing else was necessary.
Next came Agnolotti, similar to ravioli, filled with delicious short rib meat and coated with a creamy pesto.
Paired on the plate was a Scallop Risotto with saffron and asparagus. The nutty rice had bay scallops mixed in and the presentation was topped with a tender bay scallop, perfectly seared. (We were served tasting-size portions.)
The main course was a Filetto with porcini mushrooms and grape tomatoes. The mushrooms were sauteed in white wine, created and proper sauce for the perfectly grilled beef.
For dessert there was Italian Cheesecake with that wonderfully crumbly texture, and a well-executed Tiramisu.
Service, as it has always been, was first rate. The main dining room is subdued elegance, with tables covered with fine white cloths and set with classy stemware. (Have your server fill one of the stems with some Falanghina del Sannio DOP Janare, an Italian white with a forward tastes of apples and citrus.)
When the nearby Mount Vernon Inn and its Red Fox Lounge were razed to make way for the myriad chain restaurants that line the boulevard, Potami started hosting Red Fox entertainers in his lounge. So on the evening we dined we could hear the music of a singer at a piano and see couples dancing. That’s the kind of relaxed atmosphere Rocco’s offers, and that’s the kind of gracious host Potami is.
Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar is at 400 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-644-7770.