Had dinner at Rocca (on 4th St. in S.M.) last night for the first time. This is a favorite of my boss, who touts it as being very "un-l.a." (that is a good thing in his mind, although he's lived here forever.) It is an elegant and comfortable restaurant (which almost seems out of place on that block). The space is not big, but they have an upstairs, sort of a mezzanine, so guess they hv more tables than it appears.
It was packed when we arrived for our res at 8. We were told, very apologetically, that there would be a short wait and it was not long until we were seated in a booth along the wall, toward the front of the restaurant. The bread on the table is classic Italian and also some cracker type things w/ some kind of spice rub and seeds -- very good, but i can't remember now what the actual flavors were. i had a glass of barolo which was very good. i am not a wine expert, so i can't comment on their list.
We had light meals. My friend and I each ordered an anitpasto and a pasta and no entrees. She had a salad, sort of chopped style. She said it was good, but i didn't think it look "special" (she was craving salad). I had a starter of melted pecorino cheese to spoon on top of crostini topped w/ truffles. very tasty (how can you go wrong with melted cheese and truffles?). portions were pretty generous for starters, but not *big*. if someone was planning to eat 3 courses, it was just right.
My friend had tortellini stuffed with sweet potato and in a brown butter sauce. it was topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. only 4 tortellini, so did not look like enough food, to me, but very rich! (she let me taste). almost like dessert (which is what i expected from the description on the menu). the pumpkin seeds gave it a nice crunch and helped to cut the sweetness. i had a linguini type pasta (i speak some italian, but even i stumbled over the name of the pasta, something like taglierini, but not quite and prob irrelevant) in squid ink (or made with squid ink to make it "black") topped with perfectly (!) cooked "diver" scallops that were wonderful and also some very fresh sweet peas in just the lightest sauce -- hardly any sauce at all. it was wonderful. also, a very nice sized portion -- more generous that my friend's very rich pasta.
we had 2 desserts -- a lemon panna cotta that was great -- it had a cranberry sauce and something a little cruchy as a garnish and was very refreshing. we also ordered the nutella chocolate cake thing -- which was much too rich, even for me and i usually love that kind of thing. it came with freshly whipped cream that was not too sweet.
my friend and i had a lot of catching up to do and before we realized it, we'd been there for 2 1/2 hrs. it was 11 before we left -- the last ones to go. we were not at all rushed. the service was friendly, professional, unobtrusive.
the only downside was that at about 10-ish, the music from Harvels (next door) started and it was quite loud at our booth (thru the wall). since we were on our way to finishing up, it wasn't a big deal, but it was a little annoying. i usually am not fussy about stuff like that; someone else might hv been very irritated.
i will definitely be going back. apparently the menu changes daily (and is posted on their website).