Monday, December 26, 2011

Rabe Us the Wrong Way

Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe -- Roc

The reason we have come all the way to Roc to sip clandestine tastes of egg nog out of our handbags is so that we can also try Rocco DiSpirito's chosen Best Thing I Ever Ate AS GOOD AS MOM's dish, the cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe.  We have relatively high expectations for this dish, if only because we have found Rocco's past Best Thing I Ever Ate choices to be delicious (and plus, we have never met a plate of pasta we couldn't finish).

Unfortunately in all cases, Roc's cavatelli dish breaks a few of our usual patterns.
It's Not Easy Being Green... Pasta
When we arrive at the establishment, Ginger initially questions whether Rocco himself owns the place, finding it seemingly unfathomable that more than one person would have the letters "Roc" in his name.  In truth, we wonder what Rocco's informal connection is to this restaurant, as by the end of our meal, we would like to send him to Scarpetta in order to witness what a truly extraordinary pasta dish and bread basket tastes like.
Well, Now, Doesn't This Reek of "Unimpressive"?
In contrast to Scarpetta's prized stromboli, Roc provides a cup of hard bread sticks on each table.  Crunching into the first one, Ginger comments, "Am I supposed to be eating this?  I assume it's not a centerpiece."
Though the Sticks Could Crack Your Teeth as Easily as a Flower Vase
The bread sticks taste of adequacy, as do the components of the bread basket itself (save for a small loaf of olive oil-soaked slices, which tip to the side of the extraordinary).

Along with the cavatelli, we decide to order the spaghetti pomodoro, if only to compare it to Ted Allen's delectable spaghetti choice at Scarpetta.
Someone Get Us a Bib, Stat
Along with our pastas and our forbidden egg nog, we are also contending with our half bottle of Frog's Leap sauvignon blanc, a choice we made because a) we liked the name and b) it was the cheapest one on the menu.  When our plates of food arrive, we become almost instantly aware that the cavatelli was a poor choice on Rocco's part.
We'll Take Some Broccoli Rabe with a Side of Cavatelli, Please
Smothered in gallons of broccoli rabe, it looks decidedly like a health food (and let's be real - if any pasta dish is ever compared to something sold an GNC stores, there is a problem).  Though the busboy coats the pile of noodles in enough parmesan cheese to sink Venice once and for all, it is not nearly enough to conquer the bitter taste of the rabe itself.  Ginger compares the sensation to kale, while Vodka, who makes it a habit to never eat "superfoods," looks on blankly.
Vodka Compares the Rabe More to the Taste of "Just Plain Awful"
Indeed, while the broccoli rabe is the most overpowering component on the plate, the sausage is also cut into overly thick, mildly spicy pieces that pick up wherever the rabe lets off.
Lopsided Cheese Sprinkling Like Whoa
In fact, the cavatelli themselves seem almost an afterthought in this whole mixture, as they are left to drown in the ever-increasing sauce produced by the combination of the rabe and the sausage.

To say nothing for the fact that, in our estimation, the cavatelli is overcooked and mildly mushy.
But Other Than All of Those Complaints, It was GREAT...
In contrast, the spaghetti is extremely al dente -- a virtue which we enjoy, and therefore do not mind when the pasta remains just short of being "crunchy."
Cap'n Crunch, Spaghetti-Style
In some ways, we might even enjoy the spaghetti more than the one served at Scarpetta, if only for how undercooked the noodles are.
And Also for How Wonderfully Those Noodles Photograph
But the rest of the Roc experience does not hold a waxy piece of a molten candle to the delicacies which Scott Conant has created on 14th Street. 
Apparently, We Have Become Messy Eaters in our Old Age
As we emerge from our final joint-eating experience of 2011, we are almost reassured that we have ended with a 3 star dish.  For if our eighty-five posts so far have taught us anything, sometimes Best Thing I Ever Ate is right, sometimes it is dreadfully wrong, and more often than we would like, it is just not all that we had hoped it would be.

Roc's Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe: 3 stars

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