Summer 2018 (Vol. 60)

Page 18

ROC Restaurant BY GREG GAPSIS & JESSICA MATHIS | PHOTOS BY DAN DRY

Rocco Cadolini grew up steeped in the cuisine of Campania on the Amalfi Coast of Southern Italy, while Chef Giovanni Tenace’s roots are set deep on the heel of Italy a little farther South in Puglia. Both areas feature a ‘farm-to-table’ focus on fresh produce, herbs, olive oil, a love of seafood and a mastery of pasta. His grandmother Rosa and mother Concetta both carried forward the tradition of old recipes and cooking with vegetables in their home, although he admits he hated all those healthy dishes as a kid. Now, it’s all he wants when he visits Italy. Rocco explained that people cook together from scratch every day in Italian homes, and he, his two brothers and his sister were often asked to help nonna (“grandmother” in Italian) Rosa. “I was a little wild kid who drove my grandma nuts,” he explained. “She would hit me with the wooden spoon with which she stirred the tomato sauce.” With a sly smile and dramatic pause, he added, “I made that spoon disappear!” The anecdote reflects Rocco’s charm, but he went on to explain that nonna Rosa, who passed away at 100 years old, grew up a farmer and brought vegetables and herbs to both cooking and medicine — but that she was also skillful with meat. “She could kill a chicken in three seconds,” he remembered with a chuckle, admitting he thought he would lose a hand at times when asked to hold the chicken for her. Rocco’s culinary tradition doesn’t just come from the women in his family. His grandfather, Pietro Cadolini, owned a panetteria (bakery), and nonno Pietro’s brother Francesco owned a pasticceria (pastry shop), rounding out an upbringing immersed in food. His father was the only person in his immediate elder family who wasn’t cooking, but Pappa was an accountant for a hospitality boarding school called Oiermo, to which young Rocco was accepted at age 14. Rocco already knew he loved to talk to people, and his wild personality steered him to the front of the house rather than the kitchen. While at the four-year school, he spent time abroad working at a 5-star hotel in Switzerland and later at another 5-star hotel in England. After a year of compulsory military service, Rocco turned 20 and journeyed to the U.S.A, where he quickly found work as a waiter at Petaluma (owned by Elio Guaitolini). Within a couple months, he trans-

Roots of the Meal

16 Summer 2018 www.foodanddine.com

Classic Italian and Lively Spirit meld into something Bellissimo at ROC


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