Dining Out: Rocca

A new chef puts this two-year-old South End restaurant back on the city’s culinary map.

 

If you can cope with the salt — which also invades the otherwise excellent homemade country bread, with an airy, moist crumb and crisp crust — you can find other terrific plates. Monkfish and shrimp sausage ($24) is really a quenelle mixture spiked with garlic, fennel seed, and chili flakes; piped into sausage casing; and grilled to make a wonderful summer sausage. Faison accompanies it with a homemade giardiniera of pickled cauliflower, peppers, onion, and celery, served over a white bean purée flavored with mustard and enriched with mascarpone. Tender spiced lamb loin ($28) in a licorice sauce (real candy bits, simmered with sambuca, star anise, and fennel) is pan-roasted with a subtly pungent dry rub that brings out its flavor. And a seasonal dish of summer bluefish ($25) is just that — perfectly fresh bluefish grilled and served in a bacon-chicken broth with vegetables. It’s something you could eat every night.

That’s what I’ll hope for more of at Rocca — along with more of Faison’s gelatos. There’s a great chocolate one ($6) sandwiched between orange “biscotti” that aren’t biscotti at all, but pale, buttery shortbread; there’s also banana gelato ($8) with peanut butter mousse, salted caramel, and Nutella. And, of course, I will go back. Larson is a great restaurateur, and Faison is a talent to watch.

500 harrison Ave., Boston, 617-451-5151, roccaboston.com