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Jan 1, 2011 03:00 AM

January Openings and Closings

because dec is getting annoying to scroll through.

"porkchop sandwiches!"

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  1. Rocca closed. A shame: I liked the new chef's food better. But they never seemed to knock down their service issues.

    38 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      We were there last week and had a fine meal and service at the bar....the night after the storm. They are still taking reservations on their website thru open table?

      1. re: capeanne

        they were when I was looking for a last minute place yesterday

        1. re: capeanne

          This would not be the first Boston restaurant to continue taking OpenTable reservations at and its own website despite being out of business. If you're planning on dinner there, call to confirm. Good news: there are plenty of worthy alternatives nearby if you show up anyway to find it shuttered.

          1. re: capeanne

            They aren't taking reservations through OpenTable anymore.

          2. re: MC Slim JB

            I just called the restaurant.
            "Closed? We're not closed."

            1. re: scotty27

              Interesting. My news comes from multiple sources closely connected with the restaurant. I'm obviously chagrined if it's not true. I wonder if it's "closing imminently, if not closed as of today."


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Maybe it is imminent. I'd be surprised. The Sapphire Group has deep pockets and Michela Larson is a vet.

                Check out the Rocca website: No mention of closings...


                1. re: scotty27

                  Plenty of talent involved, certainly, but the place has, like many South End restaurants, stood largely empty many weeknights over the past year, despite a consensus that Faison had greatly reinvigorated the menu. FoH staff turnover seemed pretty constant, too.

                  I had written it off in the Fosnot era when I got tired of being served cold food. I gave it another chance once Faison came aboard, really liked her cooking. But a series of dinners there still revealed horribly inconsistent service, to the point where friends I had lured back said, "No más." (One dinner was probably my single worst fine-dining service experience of the year: so bad it was almost funny, until the $170 check came.)

                  It has been a very frustrating restaurant: much to like about it, but very tough to recommend or patronize regularly, my poster child for how crucial consistency is to a restaurant's long-term success.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I understand. I agree. I love the rooms, wanted it to succeed, but haven't been back in a long time for reasons you mention. The food was very inconsistent and the service so uneven that I wanted to help the servers serving, I felt so bad for them: Not knowing the menu, not being to explain the dishes, etc. Weird, because Gary is a good guy. I also liked the effort towards focused, regional Ligurian food and the price point was terrific: It was the restaurant I had hoped Rialto would be. I was comparing it, too, to all other Italian restaurants in Boston and, in comparison to them, it was a cut above. Nowadays, I go to Scampo for Italian food only because it's near the Garden before a Celtics game. Otherwise, I wouldn't waste a dime on Italian food anywhere in town. I thought Marco was so bad as to be silly and Via Matta way overpriced for what it is. I recognize that Coppa is good, but the no reservations policy, the small room, and the unfocused menu are turn offs.

                    215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

                    Via Matta
                    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                    253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                    1. re: scotty27

                      Just got confirmation from another very reliable source that last night was Rocca's last dinner service.


                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                      Any word on what faison is moving on to?

                      1. re: jgg13

                        Haven't heard, though her options are wide open and not limited to Boston. Also, I see that Rocca is no longer taking OpenTable reservations.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I saw that, too.

                          I sent out your posting to chef/owners in Boston & Cambridge, here's one comment from a person: "I REALLY doubt that! But I’ll keep my ear to the ground…"
                          If it happened, and it sounds like it did, must've been sudden. Yikes!


                          1. re: scotty27

                            As I mentioned, it wasn't completely shocking news to locals. Staff turmoil, persistent service issues, and empty dining rooms are never good signs.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I guess.
                              Shocking to restaurant industry pro's, however.

                              1. re: scotty27

                                I guess we're talking to different people. I've been aware of industry rumors of trouble at Rocca for at least six months.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  I think you're right. Different people. I sent your comment to several owners and they were surprised that it closed. Trouble is also different than a restaurant closing, especially suddenly, especially the recent P.R. in the Globe, etc. re the chef on the Food Channel.

                                  1. re: scotty27

                                    Yes, you mentioned that. In retrospect, the PR and TV work kind of looks like Tiffani gilding her parachute.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Makes sense though odd that the Rocca team would promote that.

                                      1. re: scotty27

                                        Faison building her own brand helped the restaurant while it was running; hard to say no to it.


                                        1. re: scotty27

                                          none of the owners are really front and center types. jody had the limelight at rialto too.

                                      2. re: scotty27

                                        there is rarely such a thing as a "sudden closing". owners know and a mostly empty room, most nights should be indicative to both staff and the few patrons still venturing in. empty seats don't pay the rent.

                                        few places give more than a day or two notice before shuttering. otherwise staff would flee and likely loot the place as well before leaving.

                                        it is a shame because michela and gary really are vets, but with all the missteps in the early days and more consistent neighboring options, it's hard to climb back up from underneath that first bad impression.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Tabla, Biba, and Chantarelle all dragged out their closings--weeks and months--so that regulars could say their goodbyes; it can go either way, fast or slow.

                                          You're right about missteps, but when one considers other restaurants of lesser quality packing 'em in, makes me wonder.


                                          1. re: scotty27

                                            I'd call those apples and oranges. Those restaurants all had long stretches of great success, even if they petered out a little toward the end. Rocca was only in business a little over three and a half years and never built a substantial, loyal following.


                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              That's a good point about longevity. Michela & Gary had/have legs and when I was there, the room was filled with restaurant people who knew them back in the day when Larson gave Todd English his first crack at running a kitchen. So here it's apples and apples.

                                              1. re: scotty27

                                                My point is that it's easier to do an extended goodbye when your restaurant has been a great success over a serious stretch of years. Rocca clearly was not that, however supportive Larson's and Sulivan's industry friends may have been.


                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  I see your point and it's a good one.

                                                  1. re: scotty27

                                                    none of the restaurants you mentioned closed under financial duress.

                                                    when excelsior closed, staff and guests were told day of, during the dinner shift and not a minute before.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      wow..that's cold.

                                                      Guests seems less important but the staff has bills and probably need to replace that income on short notice..and may not have the savings to ride a few monhs.

                                                      I've been through a corp bankruptcy and it's not pretty, but at least we had a reasonable chance to find something else before the doors actually closed.

                                                      With a restaurant, seems like you generally have to keep it a secret to avoid a mass exodus.

                                                      Glad I was never a good cust at Excelsior..but had many good times at Biba.

                                                      1. re: 9lives

                                                        a mass exodus and sticky fingers on the way out. owners always think their staff is robbing them blind.

                                                        1. re: 9lives

                                                          I loved Biba. But i was so much older than that then, I'm younger than that now.

                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          Chantarelle closed because the deal fell through. Tabla: Too few asses in the seats.

                                                          1. re: scotty27

                                                            Tabla had a very successful 12-year run, only slowed in its last year or so. Notable for being the only Danny Meyer restaurant to ever close. I liked it a lot, better in the downstairs bar than the dining room. (And that's some sloppy Dylan quoting.)


                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                              "Ah, but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now."
                                                              Now you have the "ah" and and have omitted the "than that."

                                                    2. re: scotty27

                                                      as a "restaurant person" familiar with all the principals (nearly accepted a job there before they opened as well), my industry colleagues and myself gave it several shots in the beginning, but that was it. we have too few nights off to gamble on a crapshoot dinner out.

                        2. Rod Dee in Porter was open when I drove by!

                          1. I think there is a good discussion going about Rocca's closing, but I have to add my few cents. I've lived in the neighborhood and been there off and on since it opened (more since the new chef).
                            The term "veteran restaurant operators" has been used several times to describe Michela Laerson and Gary Sullivan. While they may be vets, it seems as though their time has come and gone. Although Michela had a great run in Boston, primarily for Michela's and Rialto, sadly their last few ventures have not been successful. This includes Blu, Red Clay, and now Rocca. This leads one to ask, are they respectable veterans anymore, or just plain out of touch? The service has been rough at best. I get great service at Gallows and Aquitaine - new and old restaurants with an eye on great hospitality and their finger on the pulse.
                            It seems a little like The Sapphire Group is no longer a group. At this point it only included Rocca. Therefore, the pockets are certainly less than deep or they're choosing to sew their pockets up. Neither looks good if they ever want to open another restaurant.
                            3. In my many experiences at Rocca, there has never been a presence in the dining room by a manager. By this I mean that the owners have never been around much working the room, and the managers I met were nice, but no more professional than the servers. It seemed there was never a strong presence in the restaurant.
                            The restaurant never seemed to be launched correctly. When they first opened in 07, the food was decent, but cold, timing was off. It was busy, but never consistent and then uninspired. Then came the gay club. Club or restaurant?
                            Finally, restaurants don't close in a few months without serious ongoing problems regarding the financial health of the business. The numbers couldn't have been great when Fosnot left. Why recruit a young chef to build her career on a closing business?! Was she the last desperate effort to save a confounded restaurant? I take your point about Faison and her parachute, but seems to me that she's out on her ass without a job too.
                            Just seems like true veteran restaurant people wouldn't leave their whole staff without jobs, but it looks like it wasn't the first time.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: cleve391

                              Great first post. don't know Rocca but have met Michela at Blu way back.

                              "Just seems like true veteran restaurant people wouldn't leave their whole staff without jobs, but it looks like it wasn't the first time"

                              for me, unless there were circumstances I'm not aware of, that's the kiss of death. I've been on the short end of a bis bankruptcy..and the longer, slightly. If you ever want to do business again,you show your emplyoyees, who helped ypu get where you are or were, some respect and dignity. Almost by definition, there may be limited $, but reach in your pocket.or your investors..who'll take a writeoff.

                              BTW, I own a small chain of restaurants as a PE investor in another part of the country. When 1 isn't working and we've tried everything but it's just a $ loser, everyone gets 1 month severerance, not a kickin the ass. I do it because I believe it's the right thing to do. I want to continue a good rep in the community,and I want to be able to call them if I want to reopen.

                              I''m not ignorant or uninformd about the biz..though my direct experience is at "lower level dining." than a Rocca.

                              1. re: 9lives

                                My parents tried the 1 month severance thing - financed on my father's Amex card - and the staff still robbed them blind. They even stole my mother's extensive cookbook collection.

                              2. re: cleve391

                                rilato had fantastic foh management with people like christopher meyers and esti parsons, rocca never had anybody like that and the original gm was not very experienced, nor did she have the charisma of christopher and esti. inconsistent food can sometimes be forgiven with great service, but the rocca staff never got polished. since the money was no good, it didn't keep staff, nor attract experienced people.

                                as for leaving staff in a lurch, sadly, that is more the norm when a place shutters than severance or notice.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  I only know Chris and Esti to say hello..probably the same as many people here. I always found them to be polite and professional but of course I didn't work for them...

                                  The abuse of rstaurant staff seems horrendous,

                                  1. re: 9lives

                                    Just wondering.. would it be a good idea to have a monthly closing and openings listings thread and also a monthly closings and openings discussion thread, so maybe it would be easier to go through the posts to see whats open and closed, and then discuss those places to our hearts content in another spot??

                                    1. re: chompie

                                      Great idea!

                                      In fact it's been going on for more than a few months.

                                      Juust scroll down for Jan, Dec,Nov, and further threads.

                                2. re: cleve391

                                  They have not paid rent in months and Nicosia wouldn't renew lease.

                                  1. re: cleve391

                                    I am sorry to hear of Rocca.

                                    I am acquainted with 1 of the bartenders and 1 of the servers.

                                    I never received a free drink at Rocca.

                                    However, I did notice several infusions behind the bar.

                                    On my second visit I noticed yet another infusion behind the bar.

                                    My point is that the demands of so-called craft bartending requires the stockiing of basil, mint,
                                    a variety of bitters...and so on.

                                    All of this means that the stock turn is slowed.

                                    The trick to running a bar is turning your stock faster than the 30-day billing cycle.

                                    17 stock turns a year is the benchmark for effective management even with skillful and honest
                                    bar staff.

                                    Often a restaurant is dependent on bar sales to provide a profit.

                                    The bar is further compromised by the increasing preference of guests to use credit cards at the bar thus incurring a 2.5% charge for V/MC and 4% for AX.

                                    Additionally, the South End is seriously crowded with restaurants and marginal operations will inevitably fall.

                                    1. re: cleve391

                                      I applied at Rocca last summer.

                                      I met Michela Larson and she has got to be about my age of 52.

                                      The restaurant racket is trend driven and trend driving and it requires a great deal of agility o stay current.

                                      Sometimes one's moment in the sun...just passes.

                                      1. re: postemotional1

                                        age is not necessarily one's downfall in re-making a brand, or turning one's career in a new direction. jasper reinvented himself with summer shack and became a multi-millionaire in the process. lydia's scampo is packed most nights. neither of them were spring chickens upon the launchings.

                                        (of course what happens at the behemoth that is towne remains to be seen.)

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Chronological age? No.

                                          Cultural age? Yes.

                                    2. Sad to hear Rocca's closing, as the RW meal I had there last year was really good, and the service was fine (not the best, but not the worst, especially considering it was RW). The wife and I were lookng forward to going back to try more of ms Faison's food, but I guess that's not going to happen now, unless she gets another place here.

                                      1. A: Would love to see the Rocca bits pulled into their own thread. Can that be done?
                                        B: Any news on Deluxe Station Diner?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: L2k

                                          L2k, Deluxe Station Diner may be open as soon as Thursday, but if not, this weekend seems almost definite for the place.

                                          Also, for those who still don't believe that Rocca has closed, more proof:


                                          1. re: hiddenboston

                                            Devra mentions rumors of several other south end restaurants possibly closing, yikes! I hope none of my favorites are among that group.