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Rocco: the gastronomic project that has conquered half the world

Rocco: the gastronomic project that has conquered half the world

Ricardo Bolas © ffmag

Nestled in the heart of the city of Lisbon, on the ground floor of the Ivens Hotel, Rocco is a restaurant of Mediterranean and Italian influences, captivating those with a penchant for discovery and bold flavours. The venue is thoughtfully divided between 4 different spaces – the Gastrobar, the Crudo bar, the Ristorante and the Terrazza –  each offering a diverse culinary experience. Rocco's gastronomic repertoire spans from Italian cucina tradizionale (at  Ristorante and Terrazza) to classic dishes from both national and international cuisine (at Gastro and Crudo bar). 
Moreover, the establishment boasts an extensive selection of top-tier wines, meticulously curated by an experienced team of sommeliers, as well as a comprehensive cocktail menu where the famous Negronis stand out. Rocco is the result of a collaboration between Plateform and the esteemed interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán, bringing to Lisbon a vibrant, festive, and sophisticated atmosphere.

At the epicentre of Rocco, is the Execute Chef Ricardo Bolas, with whom we talked about this project and its journey so far.


How did you get started in the kitchen?
It started within my immediate family. My parents have businesses in the restaurant sector, which allowed me to be involved from a very early age. I was also influenced by my brother, who attended the Estoril Hotel School, and I ended up doing the same training as him. Following my studies, I embarked on a seven-year journey at the Lapa Palace Hotel, where I honed my skills under a supportive team. This experience not only enriched my technical expertise and product knowledge, but also instilled discipline and organisational prowess. During my time there, I also had the privilege of working alongside star guest chefs, such as Chef Giorgio Damasio. He eventually invited me to join him in the launching of the Italian restaurant D'Oliva – among other projects – where I worked as a sous-chef for four years. This period got me more involved in Italian cuisine, a personal preference of mine. Before joining Plateform in 2016, my culinary journey took me to some Michelin-starred restaurants in major European capitals, involved me in television shows in Portugal, and led to some experience as a private Chef. 

Garlic prawns. Rocco Restaurant. Lisbon

Garlic prawns © Rocco

What does Rocco mean to you?
For me, Rocco holds a special place in my heart as a unique project. It's not just an opportunity to immerse myself in the world of Italian cuisine, which I have a particular fondness for, but it also allows me to unleash my creativity. It gives me the opportunity to experiment with a wide range of ingredient combinations, crafting original flavours that add a distinctive touch to our offerings. On top of that, Rocco stands out in Lisbon, having gained recognition for both its architectural charm and innovative gastronomic approach. This recognition extends not only to the locals but also to the international visitors who appreciate what we bring to the table. I feel that Rocco plays a significant role in placing Lisbon on the map of European capitals, injecting more cosmopolitan spirit that the city has been evolving towards in recent years.

What does it feel like to be Executive Chef at one of Lisbon's premier gastronomic projects?
For me, it's a great privilege and a source of tremendous pride to have been part of this project since its inception. Witnessing its growth and remarkable success, becoming a benchmark not only in Portugal but also internationally, fuels my motivation to continue to dedicate myself and seek new challenges, both in this current endeavour and in upcoming projects.

Red Prawns risotto. Rocco Restaurant, Lisbon

Red Prawns risotto © Rocco

How many cooks currently work at Rocco?
At present, Rocco boasts a culinary team of approximately 40 cooks. The in-house production, coupled with the high demand and 24-hour service, necessitates this robust workforce. Beyond catering to the individual schedules of the four distinct spaces, including the Gastrobar  which operates until one in the morning, we also provide continuous support to the Ivens Hotel through uninterrupted Room Service.

What surprised you the most about this project?
What surprised me the most was, in fact the rapid success it achieved. While we were confident from the outset that this project would be a winner, the speed with which we gained notoriety exceeded our expectations. Customers came not only once, but twice or three times to experience each of the different spaces, to savour the diversity of the menus, and enjoy each of the environments that unfold day and night. The national and international press has also named Rocco several times as a must-visit establishment in Lisbon. This rapid ascent fills us with pride, acknowledging the dedicated efforts of the entire team over the last two years, without whom such success would not have been possible.

Rocco Restaurant Lisbon

Rocco restaurant © Rocco

How do you imagine your future?
I imagine my future continuing at Plateform, as I strongly resonate with the group's ideology of investing in distinctive gastronomic projects. It is a group that allows me to actively participate in new projects, without putting limits on my creativity, and that supports me by valuing my professional career.

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