Rocco Steakhouse overall score: 85
I was recently invited to a press dinner here at Rocco Steakhouse, which is new to the NYC steak scene.
Rocco Trotta, the namesake of this joint, is an entrepreneur whose construction management and engineering firm contributed to such projects as High Line Park, the 7 subway extension, and the post-9/11 rebuilding of lower Manhattan. Given his hand in the preservation and building of those landmark NYC sites, he decided to create a new kind of NYC landmark – a steakhouse – as few remain from the old guard: Luger’s, Keen’s, Delmonico’s, Gallagher’s, Wolfgang’s…
Speaking of Wolfgang’s, Rocco actually began his foray into the hospitality biz there, where he connected with current partners Pete Pjetrovic (General Manager) and Jeff Kolenovic (Beverage Director). Even Executive Chef Johnny Jevric has a Wolfgang’s pedigree: Johnny actually has more than 20 years of experience at NYC restaurants, but for the past 10 he was the Executive Chef at Wolfgang’s. Clearly these guys know what they’re up to when it comes to steakhouses. They even made sure to staff Rocco Steakhouse with employees that had no less than 10 years of experience at top NYC steakhouses, like Henry Doda (Head Waiter and Sommelier), who also worked at Wolfgang’s under the same title for 10 years. That’s awesome!
Okay so let me get on to the food now…
My wife and I shared a 34oz tomahawk rib eye. This was an absolutely gorgeous cut of meat.
This fucker was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Nice and pink.
It came to us after it had cooked and rested a bit, and there was absolutely no bleed-out on the bottom of the plate. The temperature was a bit colder than I usually like, but I’d rather have a well-rested and “not hot” steak than a hot steak that is still releasing its juices after being cut/while its being eaten.
The majority of the chop was the eye portion. There was very little fat cap, which was unfortunate (that tender and flavorful fatty ridge that encircles many cuts of rib eye). And as you can see below, there was a slight bit more sear on one side than the other (the grey edge on the right is thicker than the left), but it didn’t change anything in terms of the flavor quality. The meat was juicy, sweet, savory, funky and delicious!
The only downside was that it was slightly under seasoned, but I chalk a lot of that up to the fact that this was such a thick steak. The edges had great flavor and seasoning in the crust. It just didn’t get too deep into the center of the meat.
Another thing worth pointing out here was that the steak tasted really great when smeared with some creamed spinach and/or some of the house steak sauce.
Each item added the seasoning into the steak that I was craving. The steak sauce wasn’t as big of a hit with my wife and I on its own. However it certainly made sense with the steak, which is odd for me because I typically don’t like steak sauce on my steak, near my steak, or even in the same fucking ROOM as my steak. It was a tomato and horseradish based sauce that was similar to a cocktail sauce but with a bit more balls from the molasses and sweeter elements.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
Everything here is USDA prime, and dry-aged on site in the restaurant’s aging box. They’ve got all four of the main cuts here, but with some nice flourishes to them: porterhouse (for two or more), two varieties of rib eye (regular and a 34oz tomahawk chop), NY strip/sirloin and two cuts of filet (one with a bone and one without).
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions here are on par with all major NYC steakhouses. Plating is basic and elegant: no over-the-top unnecessary garnishes, no insanely elegant art pieces. The plating allows you to get right down to business and I like that.
Since this was a press dinner, I didn’t have to pay. The prices seem to be fair and on par with most steakhouses, averaging about $50 per chop. I thought the bone-in filet was a bit pricey when I noticed it at close to $60, but that item is likely significantly larger than a typical filet mignon cut.
Also worth mentioning here: Del Frisco’s offers a 32oz wagyu tomahawk for the same price as the 34oz tomahawk offered here. So for $95 you can get that wagyu tomahawk, which I consider to be one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten, while just losing two meager ounces in trade off. Something to consider…
The bar is a nice U-shaped set-up, and it is situated beside large floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Madison Avenue. There’s also a nice stone accent wall that gives the room a classic vibe.
This is definitely a good place to hang out, as both the bar and restaurant were well-attended on a Tuesday after work.
The cocktail list is distinctively classic American, which I love. The martini was good too, mixed up nice and cold.
Jeff and Henry have curated a great wine list here as well, with nice full-bodied red wine selections from California, Australia, France and Italy – all of which pair well with a steak. My wife, however, started with a nice Riesling. It was sweet and flavorful, with no metallic aftertaste that you sometimes get with whites.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
Given the Italian inspiration to some of the menu and decor here, it was only fitting to include some Italian preparations for other meat dishes. For example, the veal can be ordered osso buco or milanese style in addition to the classic chophouse style. There’s also lamb chops and some chicken preparations as well, but I did not notice any pork (other than the bacon).
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
We started with a trio of apps. Our first and favorite was the thick cut bacon. When I saw “Canadian” bacon on the menu, I was concerned that this would be similar to ham. But this was some nicely crisped, juicy and delicious slab bacon.
Next was the equally delicious smoked salmon. This came with capers and onions, and was served along with some toasted bread, arugula and a fresh dill and caper cream.
It had a really nice, bright flavor. While I typically dislike dill, this cream went extremely well with the salmon, especially when you got a bite of everything together.
Last for apps was the tuna tartare. Like the seafood above, this, too, had a crisp freshness to the flavor. It was light, juicy, and healthy.
For sides, we had the creamed spinach and the “Rocco’s Fries.” Rocco’s fries were thick cut, huge-ass potato chips!
These were awesome. Nicely seasoned, very crisp and hearty, and they went perfectly with the creamed spinach:
That creamed spinach, by the way, was top-notch. It was creamy but seemed to be made without cream. It was mainly spinach, which I like, and not some glob of half melted cheese and cream.
We were pretty full by time dessert menus came around, so we just shared a slice of key lime pie (on the recommendation of our waiter) and a cappuccino.
Each dessert comes with a pile of homemade schlag, which was light, sweet and clean. Really nice stuff. The graham cracker crust was soft, buttery and flavorful. The filling was real lime, with a slight bit of bitterness to round out the sweetness and tartness. It was a well balanced dessert.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s a nice looking seafood tower on the menu here, as well as some other shellfish and apps. Most alluring to me was the stone crab. But we ended up going with the recommendations from the waiter, which, as mentioned above, were the tuna tartare and smoked salmon. For entrees, the selection consists of seabass, tuna, salmon, lobster and shrimp. Very nice.
The service here is incredible. As you can imagine, the staff here is very attentive without being in-your-face annoying. As noted above, Rocco is staffed with steakhouse professionals, and people who have been working at high-end steak joints for at least a decade or more. It shows in their interactions with customers.
One note about the bread – sliced sesame seed Italian bread and onion rolls served with some standard chunks of butter:
While the bread wasn’t toasty, it was certainly tasty.
In contrast with many steakhouses, the space here is bright. The high-ceilinged restaurant is lit overhead by light fixtures that look like giant picture frames.
The wood floors are masculine and robust, but the tabletops are refined and elegant. The walls have a nice dark wood wainscoting on the lower third, and the upper two thirds boast a nice art deco style patterned wallpaper. There’s also a private dining room available in the back, which can be more intimate, with an impressive feature wall of wines, a big screen TV and a fireplace.
72 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10016