Travelers Rest has transformed itself into a dining destination almost overnight. It has anything you’d want from tacos to pizza to BBQ and everything in between. Well…almost everything. Restaurateur Andy O’Mara set out to revamp his already thriving restaurant, Rocket Surgery, and redesigned the menu and concept to focus on Italian-driven dishes, a great wine list, and craft cocktails all in an intimate setting.
The menu is simple and boasts many classic Italian dishes with a modern twist. You could almost make a meal of their small plates alone, but they also offer handmade pasta dishes, large plates, vegetables and an impressive dessert menu. You know I tried a little bit of everything, so let’s dig in.
Starting with the small plates, we selected the House Made Ricotta, Meatballs and Arancini. The ricotta surprises you with a variety of flavors, with winter squash agrodulce (a sweet and sour sauce), chili powder and the most incredible house made focaccia I’ve ever had. It’s an ideal balance of sweet, tangy and buttery that you’ll definitely request extra bread for.
These aren’t your average marinara sauce drenched meatballs. Rocket Surgery prepares their meatballs atop bitter greens and pistachios in a savory broth and a sprinkle of Grana Padano cheese. The meat is the star of the show in this dish and is made even more delicious by the flavorful broth and texture from the greens.
Don’t know what Arancini is? It’s simply a deep fried ball of risotto usually served with some sort of dipping sauce. In place of a dipping sauce, Rocket Surgery serves their Arancini with marinated tomatoes, roasted garlic and preserved lemon. All the creamy goodness inside that piping hot ball of deliciousness is complemented by the burst of flavors from the tomatoes.
Rocket Surgery knows good pasta. When you’re making the noodles by hand, and selecting only the best quality ingredients, you can almost guarantee some pretty phenomenal dishes. We tried the Rigatoni, Papardelle and Capellini. The Rigatoni is served with wild mushrooms, tomato cream sauce and Grana Padano cheese. This dish is comfort on a plate and would be a sure-winner for anyone looking for something simple and satisfying.
All the seafood lovers will swoon over the Capellini, chock full of scallops, lump crab and mussels, tossed in a tomato pomodoro sauce and topped with fresh basil. This dish makes you feel like you’re sitting in a classic Italian restaurant in New York and pairs supremely well with a glass of white wine.
The Pappardelle was my favorite pasta dish this evening, served with a short rib sugo (tomato meat sauce), house ricotta, caramelized onions and tarragon. It sounds simple, but the flavor of this dish is truly exceptional. With every bite, you taste each component separately, while also recognizing the marrying of ingredients. The faintly sweet onions and tarragon contrast the richness of this dish and I simply couldn’t get enough.
I don’t care how full you feel after your meal at Rocket Surgery. You MUST save room for dessert. The pastry chef is a genius and both desserts we tried this evening were to die for. I was immediately drawn to the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with layers of hazelnut icing and a scoop of ice cream on top. Being a huge fan of the chocolate/hazelnut combo, this cake was perfect in every way. We also had the Salted Butterscotch Budino, which has a texture similar to a pudding, but is much lighter and creamier. Take a little bit of the cookie and crumble it up in the Budino, and you’ve got the ideal bite.
If you haven’t tried the new and improved Rocket Surgery, there’s no better time than the present. They are open Wednesday & Thursday 5pm-9pm and Friday & Saturday 5pm-10pm.