by Steven Doyle
In the air of Manhattan’s Little Italy chef Jay Valley has etched out a a bit of his past to share with guests who dine with him on any given night at Saint Rocco’s in Trinity Groves.
For nearly twenty years Chef Jay has been working with Phil Romano, who owns the vast culinary complex at Trinity Groves, as chef at Eatzi’s. When it came time to open something decidedly Italian it was an easy decision to bring on the chef as a working partner. With him Chef Jay brought along a lifetime of recipes dating back to his childhood.
Sausage and Peppers
The authentic tastes, and even sights and sounds, are shared nightly to an enormous crowd in the successful Saint Rocco’s. The elements that transport guests include delicious recipes, original photographs from the lives of both Chef Jay and Romano, and the inspiring music from the playlist that screams Little Italy. Broad strokes of genius.
The menu reads like a Who’s Who of classic Italian-American dining. From the house-made sausage and peppers dish that is plated beautifully as a shared plate to a handful of pizza that can be witnessed in preparation via the very open kitchen, your meal should start off as magnificently as ours.
We were particularly excited over the fresh and cooling salad choice made with watermelon, feta, oranges, arugula and orange tarragon vinaigrette. Shared with the table it was a struggle as we fought for last bites of the sections Mandarin oranges and bites of juicy watermelon all packed with enormous summer flavors.
We enjoyed the entrees equally as much and tore into them with verve as plates of linguine and clams, lobster ravioli and a delicious take on Chef Jay’s mother’s version of Sicilian lasagna made their way to our table.
The clams were succulent and on point with a delicate sauce of both butter and wine relented to the fresh pasta. Shards of bread from a freshly baked loaf of bread were there to assist as we soaked up the last of the savory sauce.
The lasagna was translated from Chef Jay’s mother’s recipe, not exactly the standard slice lifted from a pan but instead the noodles are tossed into a bowl with sausage and beef with a good amount of sauce and cheese almost as a deconstructed version that mom made with leftover ingredients from the big weekend meals. This dish we all fought over and for good reason. Someone at your table must order the lasagna so you get at least one perfect bite.
Linguine and Clams
Sausage and Orecchiette
Then we have the lobster ravioli which is also handmade each day in house with chunky lobster bites and a dreamy creamy sauce of truffle cream with a dash of sherry that brings out the sweet flavor of the crustacean with a delicate balance of heavenly aureole and devilish dernier cri.
Pouring our wine this evening was one of the managers, Melita who was simply charming. She was quick with a few appropriately bawdy Italian jokes all told with a distinct Italian accent with choice Italian phrases tossed in for good measure. Although not to be considered a side show, her wit and charm ingratiated us, and had us hoping for another visit to our table.
The wine selection is superbly Italian with some delicious crafty cocktails available. We never got as far as cocktails as the wine was fantastic. We enjoyed a delightful Pinot Noir from Rose Rock Drouhin Family, and the Tuscan Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Both heavily recommended to make your night perfect.
The night could have easily ended with a cannoli or a bowl of spumoni, but instead we were treated to a cheeseboard-like display that included a cannoli cream with macerated berries, slices of olive oil cake, fresh dipped cherries and strawberries, and marvelous slices of a chocolate salami made with figs. The latter was light and made our night extra happy.
Multi-Course Family Meals are available for $33.25 per person which gives guests a wide assortment to choose from. Steaks and chops are also available on the menu, and the chef will customize a dish for your particular taste. Reservations are recommended for Saint Rocco’s as they are busy seven nights a week.
There is a beautiful third floor with a view which is perfect for night football games where the project the Cowboys onto a blank wall. The other walls are covered with tasteful Romano originals. The view might be the perfect look onto Dallas with a foreground of the Hunt-Hill Bridge, with its background of the city we all love.