The host of two Cooking Channel series, “David Rocco’s Dolce Vita” and “David Rocco’s Amalfi Getaway” will be exploring Boston’s food scene tomorrow and Friday ahead of a new, currently untitled third series.
‘We don’t look at lasagna or certain pizzas as ethnic anymore. I want to celebrate that because I think there’s a lot of great stories in America to talk about.’
Q. What do you have planned for this Boston fact-finding mission?
A. I love Boston. There’s something really sincere and heartfelt about the people of Boston. The Italians there, there’s something really genuine and they hold onto their Italian roots where other Americans kind of blend the two. Boston has a great food scene. The last time I was there I went to Prezza. The food is fantastic, it’s certainly authentic Italian. It could rival any restaurant in Italy. Boston’s lucky because it has the gift of the ocean and there’s amazing produce in the area, as well as fish and all the rest of it. I’ve been told to check out Lucca. I hear it’s very good, authentic with a great bar and good wine list. Also [I’ve been told to try] Stella in the South End. It’s probably going to be a whirlwind of trying different things and checking things out.
Q. What’s the concept behind this developing show?
A. Italian food is American food. If you look at any diner, drive-in, dive, you go through America, everyone has this connection with Italian food. Spaghetti and meatballs might be the most cliche, but you look at lasagna and pastas. Broccoli rabe may be as simple and available now as just broccoli. I kind of thought, hmm, this is interesting because it’s comfort food for a lot of Americans. It’d be neat to travel across America and just explore these great home chefs, these great cooks and restaurants, and see if they are as good, sometimes far better, than what I eat in Italy, or maybe not. Maybe there’s kind of an American spin to some of these dishes. It’s still in development and it’s still evolving. But like I said, I think Italian food is American food. We don’t look at lasagna or certain pizzas as ethnic anymore. I want to celebrate that because I think there’s a lot of great stories in America to talk about.
Q. What’s the competitive element?
A. We’re going to probably go throughout America, a cross-section, and go to mostly home cooks because there’s the element of family that comes into play, whether it’s Uncle Johnny who makes his favorite dish at that big family party or Mama’s meatballs. We want to bring out some of those characters and some of that competitive nature. But we also think there’s some great stories of the mom-and-pop pizza joints that do classic Italian dishes. So we’re going to go and explore all this and it’s going to be a one-dish throwdown, and I will go up against them and we’ll see how it compares. Mine will be probably more classic Italian that you’d find in Italy and some might be classic Italian as well, but with a family secret or family twist. Some might be more Americanized, which is totally cool and sometimes better than the real thing in Italy.
Q. As you scout various food cities and restaurants, what trends do you notice in Italian cooking?
A. I think there’s two things going on. There’s a throwback to some of the simple dishes like papa al pomodoro, simple Tuscan beans with maybe seared tuna, and it’s just done with very few ingredients but quality ingredients like fantastic extra virgin olive oil. So it’s gone in a very less-is-more approach. But there’s also this thing where you get classic dishes like spaghetti carbonara, you’re going to use maybe kale and crisp it up along with the pancetta. I think people are going to go more into the simple approach. Not spaghetti and meatballs, but maybe a simple gazpacho with fantastic olive oil and pair it with a great glass of a Chianti. I think people are looking at a less-is-more approach, more comfort food as well.