With seemingly every new Center City restaurant forcing people to dig deeply into their wallet, it's great to have Rob LaScala, whose flagship is the casual, family-friendly LaScala's at Seventh and Chestnut Streets.
LaScala, with chef Joe Nocella, is about to launch two side by side Italian concepts, near Third and Chestnut. Earlier this year, he bought the adjoining restau-clubs Paradigm (239 Chestnut) and Dolce (241 Chestnut). Paradigm's claims to fame were the clear restroom doors that become opaque only when they're locked; this was the coolest thing in 1997. Dolce was an Italian-style lounge.
Perhaps as early as this weekend (11/26), the Paradigm side will open as Rocchino's (215-238-6900), a smart-looking spot with brick walls, a curved bar, booth-and-table seating, and mammoth, colorfully tiled coal-fired oven that fires up pizzas, pastas and the like; it's billed as a rustic small-plater, but portions, especially pastas, are decent. Rocchino's menu is here. A friend snuck me into a test dinner last night. We recommend the tasting board of antipasti, the short-rib and marinara pizza (all pies are $16 and under), the meatballs, and especially the octopus (though the $12 price tag may have been a tad high). Yes, the restroom doors remain. Website is here. It'll serve dinner and late night only at the start. "Rocchino" is LaScala's mother's family, just so you know.
Next door, through a passageway, will be Azione (215-238-9983), serving family style, a la Carmine's, with straight-ahead red-gravy specialties plus pork loin, short ribs, lamb shank, and a porterhouse in a contemporary room. Final menu is not quite ready. It is due to open a week after Rocchino's. Website is here.