Bar Rocco opens in Coorparoo

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There’s a slick wine list and panettone-infused negronis. But, really, you’re here for wood-fired pizzette, a crumbed veal panino, and grilled Wagyu and tiger prawns.

Ashley-Maree Kent wants you to know Bar Rocco is not a bar. Not exactly, anyway.

“I’ve had friends of mine contact me and say, ‘It’s just drinks and snacks, right?’” Kent says. “And I’m, like, ‘No, it’s small plates and big plates.’”

Bar Rocco and Romana Trattoria in Coorparoo.
Bar Rocco and Romana Trattoria in Coorparoo.Markus Ravik

Bar Rocco is about as much a bar as Bar Francine in West End or Bar Heather in Byron Bay or Bar Copains in Sydney. Yes, there’s a big drinks focus – in this case cocktails and a 50-bottle wine list – but the food arguably takes centre stage.

Bar Rocco opened in December on Leicester Street on the border of Coorparoo and Camp Hill, and acts as a casual counterpoint to Kent’s popular hand-shaped pasta restaurant, Ramona, next door. Where Ramona is all neutral tones, understated styling and bentwood chairs, designers Alkot Studio have mapped out Rocco with casual furniture and pops of colour.

The idea is to come, crack a wine, and eat as much or little as you want – but you should definitely eat.

You’re advised to book ahead to land a table at Bar Rocco.
You’re advised to book ahead to land a table at Bar Rocco.Markus Ravik

“I just wanted there to be that casualness to it,” Kent says. “If people want to head out and not spend much money, they can do that. But there are lots of options for people who want to dine and have a good dinner as well. You can choose how you want to approach it.”

The “bar” element of Bar Rocco is relatively straightforward. The wine list, compiled by sommelier Olivia Evans, ranges beyond Italy with plenty of champagne, and Austrian and Portuguese drops, with a handful available via Coravin. A generous selection of cocktails includes a spritz menu and a batch-made, panettone-infused negroni.

But, really, it’s hard to imagine drinking at Bar Rocco without some food in front of you.

The food is arguably more essential than the drinks at Bar Rocco.
The food is arguably more essential than the drinks at Bar Rocco.Courtesy of Bar Rocco

Kent is using a coal-fired grill – “like a stackable hibachi,” she says – custom-made by Samford’s The Brick Chef (who built Ramona’s wood-fired pizza oven) to anchor a menu that will change regularly depending on the seasons.

For small plates, there’s charred focaccia with either Olasagasti anchovies, or whipped ricotta, tomato, basil and balsamic; a crumbed veal panino with brown butter, sage, capers and rocket; and crocchette di patate with parmigiano, scarmoza and peppers.

Pizzette come from the oven next door, and include an ’nduja, honey, parmigiano and mascarpone number, and mortadella, pistachio and stracciatella.

Mortadella pizzetta with pistachio and stracciatella.
Mortadella pizzetta with pistachio and stracciatella.Courtesy of Bar Rocco

From the grill you can order smaller plates such as Skull Island tiger prawns with capers, herb and lemon, or house-made sausage with beans and smoked tomato butter. The large plates are a six-score Wagyu picanha tagliata with rocket and parmigiano, and spada alla ghiotta (swordfish with tomatoes, olives, capers and oregano).

There’s just a pair of desserts: torta caprese with almonds and zabione, and a millefoglie with strawberries, balsamic and diplomat cream.

Grilled Skull Island tiger prawns at Bar Rocco.
Grilled Skull Island tiger prawns at Bar Rocco.Courtesy of Bar Rocco

Still, the clearest indication of how much a bar Bar Rocco isn’t? You probably need to book before you go.

“I’m only 30 seats,” Kent says. “People get so disappointed when they rock up at 6.30pm and we’re full.”

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Matt SheaMatt Shea is Food and Culture Editor at Brisbane Times. He is a former editor and editor-at-large at Broadsheet Brisbane, and has written for Escape, Qantas Magazine, the Guardian, Jetstar Magazine and SilverKris, among many others.

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