Remember where Romance Restaurant used to be at 203 N. El Camino Real? Well, longtime San Clemente chef, Rocco Carbonara bought the space last April and turned it into Rocco’s. Carbonara worked for many years as a chef at Carbonara Trattoria, owned by his uncle, Tony Carbonara. Rocco is hoping his local reputation as a top chef will bring in diners. I had the pleasure of dining there last night, and I think it will be a huge success.
Rocco’s specializes in Mediterranean and Latin cuisine. The menu offers a nice range of items including pastas, meats and fish; and the prices are quite reasonable.
I chose the Chicken Saltimbocca ($16). More of a saltimbocca all Romana, this dish featured grilled chicken rolled with buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto, topped with a Marsala wine sauce. It was served with mashed potatoes and spinach. The chicken was tender, and the combination of mozzarella, prosciutto and sauce was light and delicious.
Jeff chose the Paella ($17). It was a mixed paella with Valencia rice, chicken, sausage, seafood and vegetables. This dish was fresh and creative.
We started with a bottle of wine: Hobnob Pinot Noir. Instead of bringing us a basket of bread, they brought us freshly made cornmeal puffs. They were warm and a bit spicy due to the jalapenos. Perfect with the wine.
I liked the decor. You enter through a beautiful wrought iron door into a small but open space. There are 7 tables in the main dining room. The kitchen is showcased behind glass so that diners can watch their meals being prepared and witness Rocco at his best. There is another room which can be reserved for events.
The ambiance was enhanced by a guitarist playing in an alcove off the main dining room. To top it all off, we were served by Rocco’s wife, a lovely woman who was friendly and welcoming.
I will absolutely visit Rocco’s again. It is another exceptional, family-owned San Clemente establishment. God, I love this town.
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