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Rustic Italian trattoria.

Our Review

There are five varieties of designer meatballs on the menu at J. Rocco, and while it may be unfair to judge a place on meatballs alone, they do tend to be decent indicators of an Italian restaurant's success. The lineup here includes bizarre, custardy shrimp meatballs in a creamy blend of lemon, wine, and curry out of place in an Italian joint, and the waiter-recommended chicken meatballs, whose thick flavor of smoked bacon was easy to tire of, like a good-looking guy with a bad personality. You're better off if you stick to the rustic plates on the menu. Tender grilled octopus was a highlight among the hot appetizers, which also include a baseball-size mound of burrata in a puddle of tomato sauce to be sopped with grilled bread. A hydroponic herb garden is a visual reminder of chef Steve Chiappetti's preference for fresh ingredients: all but one of the pastas are made in-house, as are the hunks of focaccia served premeal. In fact, the tagliatelle entree served in a meat sauce with pork belly, veal, and chuck may be the best thing on the menu, simple yet rich, homey, and complex. Likewise, the best meatball was the simplest and most traditional—pork and oregano in a fresh, pleasantly acidic tomato sauce. Read the full review >>

Gwynedd Stuart

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Price: $$$
Payment Type: MasterCard, Visa, AmEx, Discover

Bar Details

The atmosphere at this part-modern, part-rustic restaurant is pleasant enough, and I particularly enjoyed having small plates and cocktails at the bar earlyish on a Tuesday evening when the rest of the place was basically empty. (Good luck getting a spot at the 12-seat bar on a Friday evening. And better luck hearing yourself think.) On paper, the bar's selection of craft cocktails is limited but attractive. In practice, it's a pretty one-note menu—and that note is sweet. The Scarlet Harlot, J. Rocco's take on an old-fashioned, is made with bourbon (sweet), blood orange (also pretty sweet), and Meletti Amaro (cinnamony sweet, like a wad of Big Red gum). I'm not sure why I thought the Agrodolce, made with rye and strawberry-rhubarb grenadine, would be any better, but I abandoned that thought when the drink arrived in a cocktail glass rimmed with sugar. The exception was the Parasole, a take on a mojito with muddled watermelon and basil—hard as hell to suck through a straw, but also hard not to drink. —Gwynedd Stuart

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