Rocco: A Young Steakhouse With Confidence

December 17, 2015 11:48 am Last Updated: December 17, 2015 1:03 pm

Rocco Steakhouse opened in the NoMad neighborhood in September, adding another steakhouse to the city’s dining scene. What makes this one any different?

A quick glance at the menu outlines the usual staples: porterhouse, ribeye, filet mignon (though in all fairness, a cow only has so many cuts). Then there are also the usual seafood suspects: crab cakes, chilled seafood tower, Chilean sea bass, and salmon.

Down to the mahogany and leather, it has the makings of a classic steakhouse through and through.

Rocco Steakhouse. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Rocco Steakhouse. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Yet there’s a sort of well-oiled rhythm and confidence to this young steakhouse. No doubt it comes from the collective experience among its ranks. Each staff member brings at least 10 years’ experience at a major steakhouse.

General manager and partner Pete Pjetrovic, for example, had worked at Wolfgang’s for 10 years; the same goes for beverage director and partner Jeff Kolenovic. The other co-owner—and the restaurant’s namesake—is Rocco Trotta, the co-founder and chairman of the board of The LiRo Group, a construction company that worked on the 7 subway line extension and High Line Park, among other projects. It was at Wolfgang’s that he befriended his current partners and the rest, as they say, is history.

When Pjetrovic left Wolfgang’s to work at Rocco, a number of waiters followed, including head waiter and sommelier Henry Doda, who also worked at Wolfgang’s for 10 years. Altogether 14 staff members followed him over from Wolfgang’s.

(L–R) Co-owner and beverage director Jeff Kolenovic; co-owner Rocco Trotta; co-owner and general manager Pete Pjetrovic; and head waiter and sommelier Henry Doda. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(L–R) Co-owner and beverage director Jeff Kolenovic; co-owner Rocco Trotta; co-owner and general manager Pete Pjetrovic; and head waiter and sommelier Henry Doda. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

It’s clear the waiters wear their confidence on their sleeve. The service is on point and attentive. They are self-assured, charming, and funny. It looks like they are having a ball, really having a ball—and who doesn’t like to be served by people who are enjoying their work?

A waiter who wasn’t tending to our table came by around the middle of dinner. Like an old friend, he looked at the dishes and said, “Greek food is good, Mexican food is good, but steak and macaroni, nothing beats that!” he said, as he gleefully rubbed his bon vivant belly.

Another waiter arrived with my order and served portions onto my plate. “That’s a beautiful dinner!” he said in a hushed and almost reverent tone. 

Later, our waiter came by with the dessert menu. “And now, the best part!” he said with a conspiratorial smile, as he turned over the descriptions of cheesecake and key lime pie to show the list of post-dinner drinks.

There’s zero doubt these gents are thorough professionals.

In the kitchen, too, executive chef Johnny Jevric brings his 20-plus years of experience, including the past 10 years as executive chef at Wolfgang’s. 

Executive chef Johnny Jevric in the steak aging room, where USDA Prime steaks are aged for 28 to 30 days. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Executive chef Johnny Jevric in the steak aging room, where USDA Prime steaks are aged for 28 to 30 days. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Start off with a slice of the sizzling bacon. The melt-in-your-mouth, char-grilled strip of well proportioned pork fat and meat is sure to whet your appetite for what is to come ($5.95 per strip).

The steaks are USDA Prime, and aged the entire time onsite in aging boxes for 28 to 30 days.

The porterhouse is the most popular cut, but we got the tomahawk steak, a 34-ounce beauty of a cut for a true carnivore; its crackly char gives way to tender, well-seasoned meat ($97.95). If the tomahawk has you feeling like a caveman or woman, then it is entirely your prerogative to do your part to avoid food waste and gnaw on the meat bits left on the bone.

Thirty-four ounces of on-the-bone rib steak brought out our inner caveman. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Thirty-four ounces of on-the-bone rib steak brought out our inner caveman. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

“You don’t know how off you are until you have a big fatty steak. I feel like going for a run now,” my dining partner said.

Don’t miss the baked German potatoes, with caramelized onions and a generous ratio of crispy golden crust to interior ($10.95), or the crab cakes, which are surprisingly big and contain sweet chunks of very fresh crabmeat ($19.95 for two).

The crab cakes, filled with fresh, sweet crab meat, were among the biggest we've seen in town. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
The crab cakes, filled with fresh, sweet crab meat, were among the biggest we’ve seen in town. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The Arugula Apple & Pear Salad with Parmesan shavings was impressively light with a delicate acidity—from the dressing and the apples—that cut the fattiness of the steak wonderfully, while a dusting of black pepper brought out the pepperiness of the arugula ($12.95).

The Arugula Apple & Pear Salad with Parmesan shavings. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
The Arugula Apple & Pear Salad with Parmesan shavings. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Those who prefer seafood won’t feel left out here, with selections such as broiled red snapper, jumbo shrimp scampi, or steamed lobster. The seafood is delivered daily.

The prices at Rocco aren’t cheap for sure, but the portions are unfailingly generous.

Rob Counts contributed to this report

Rocco Steakhouse
72 Madison Ave. (between 27th and 28th streets)
212-696-9660
roccosteakhouse.com

Hours
Monday–Saturday
Noon–10:30 p.m.
Lunch: Noon–4 p.m.

Sundays
Private parties only

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)