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Rocco’s smart atmosphere enhances lovely meal

Rocco’s smart atmosphere enhances lovely meal

Rocco’s positions itself as fine American modern dining with an updated menu, using locally procured
Rocco’s smart atmosphere enhances lovely meal
Rocco's outstanding pork belly appetizer is squares of tender meat, crispy around the edges and topped with a colorful homemade slaw.
Photographer: Caroline Lee

I’m a big fan of the Halfmoon Sandwich Shop, which checks all the boxes when it comes to doing things right, and I’m glad to see that level of quality is consistent at their latest restaurant, Rocco’s.

Rocco’s positions itself as fine American modern dining with an updated menu, using locally procured provisions.

You enter Rocco’s via the side porch that leads into a small foyer connecting the kitchen and bar/dining room. What was a charming general store and casual restaurant is now a white linen dining room and smart bar with wooden tables and chairs in orderly rows, glass storefront windows that overlook Main Street and funky retro light bulbs that hang from cords in clusters over the bar. Each table was topped with a real candle and vase of fresh cotton boll sprays. In the twilight, it was beautiful.

Rocco’s on Main Street

WHERE: 989 Main Street, Clifton Park. 406-5251. www.roccosonmain.com

WHEN: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $83.42, before tax and tip

MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Wheelchair accessible. Accommodations made for children’s meals. Reservations accepted.

It’s pleasant on a quiet week night. Folks were there for a drink, some enjoying a light meal at the bar. Our server filled water glasses and brought menus, and told us that weekends could be busy.

Rocco’s has my favorite kind of menu — one of everything, presented in the way the chef thinks best: a lamb rack, roasted chicken or duck, a pork chop and filet mignon. Prices for entrees range from around twenty dollars for chicken to over thirty for beef and veal. A few salads and pasta dishes are available. Appetizers range from $8.99 for mozzarella en carozza, mussels, and arancini to $11.99 for crab cakes, and fresh clams.

We shared the outstanding pork belly appetizer ($9.99), three squares of tender, fatty meat, crispy around the edges, topped with a colorful homemade slaw that had a lively kick. The heat of the chili paste and the crunch of the slaw cut the fattiness of the meat. It’s a special, but often available and if so, you should try it.

Mom chose the veal chop ($33.99), with meat pounded thin and cut from the bone, which was stuck into the smooth garlic mashed potatoes at a jaunty angle. The veal was pink where it was near the bone and tender, gently flavored and accentuated by a rich brown gravy. Mom gave points for the broccoli raab for being cooked thoroughly.

The duck duet ($24.99) was delightful, especially the sliced breast fillet with crispy skin, cooked through as requested. It wasn’t glazed with fruit, just left savory to allow the flavor of the meat to shine.

The confit, garlicky leg meat, was cooked until tender but I missed that big flavor blast from duck fat. When made the arduous, old-school way, duck confit packs the meat in duck fat (which doesn’t harbor bacteria and serves as a way to preserve it for weeks or months), then served much later. The duck at Rocco’s was delicious, an acceptable version, but not as rich as what I enjoyed in Paris.

The sides rounded out the plate nicely; I loved the big beads of couscous, and each bit of Swiss chard I forked up carried several pieces of browned garlic with it.

We shared a slice of homemade cheesecake ($8.99), a recipe from the owner’s grandmother, and it’s a good one. The crust is minimal, leaving the smooth and creamy cheesecake to shine. The berry compote was delicious, but window dressing. The cheesecake alone was perfection. It didn’t need a thing.

Rocco’s opened last September and is still working out a few kinks, but clearly has accomplished what it aspires to and will prove to be one of the best restaurant in the Capital Region. I’d go soon, before you can’t get in.

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