1061 & 1033 Swarthmore Avenue
By MERV HECHT | Restrautant Critic
On a bright sunny day between rainstorms, I walked through Palisades Village, marveling in its beauty and thinking how lucky we are to live in the Palisades. It is truly one of the great villages in California—and if you have any doubts about that, just look at housing prices.
I was excited to see that the new ROCA Pizza was open. Customers were munching away at squares of pizza. So, naturally, I had to try one.
I went inside and saw an amazing selection of little squares of pizza. Each looked delicious.
I was suspicious because I think of pizza as round, with a flavorful tomato sauce, hot out of the oven. There’s excellent pizza like that at Beech Street Cafe just down the street.
In some parts of southern Italy, pizza is rolled out in long oblong shapes, and squares are cut and heated as ordered, but to me, that’s a different animal.
I ordered the mushroom square because I love mushrooms, and I asked for a glass of water to go with it. At that, the manager came over to explain customers had to pay for bottled water. I must admit that I was rather taken aback by this and it felt a little uncomfortable. I paid the $6 and tried the pizza.
The crust was different than most pizzas I have tried. Not thin as in Italy, and somewhat porous. The mushrooms were good, but overall, I found it bland without any seasoned tomato sauce.
I walked around and asked a half-dozen customers their opinion. I must say, I was surprised at the very favorable responses. They especially liked the porous base. Perhaps my love for original Italian style pizza has impaired my ability to appreciate more creative renditions of pizza.
Based on my observation of others, I must conclude that ROCA is very popular. I’ll still go to Beech Street for my pizza, however. Nevertheless, I predict another success for Palisades Village with the new ROCA.
Still hungry, I walked a few steps to Hank’s for a hamburger.
When Hank’s first opened, the menu was short on selections. Now the menu has expanded, and there are a lot of interesting items to choose from.
The special lunches for the day included Cheese Steak ($26) paired with Zinfandel, Fish and Chips ($32) paired with Guinness Stout, and Chicken Fajita ($28) paired with Corona Cerveza. Some very nice looking options.
Hank’s advertises the best hamburgers in town, so that’s what I decided to try. Let me start by saying I was skeptical because I like my hamburgers thick and rare. I know that Hank’s serves thin burgers that are never rare.
I was given the choice of French fries or onion rings, and I chose the onion rings. The fact that onion rings come with a burger makes the price of the burger a little more reasonable—but it’s certainly not cheap.
After about 15 minutes my burger came with French fries. I mentioned it to the waiter, and he scooped up the fries and said the onion rings would be out shortly. They were not.
I dug into the burger and was pleasantly surprised. Even though it was not rare as I like, the combination of the excellent bun, good quality meat and sauce made it quite delicious.
About five minutes after I finished the hamburger, the onion rings arrived. I tried one just for educational purposes, and it was good. But I was already full. One could argue the waiter did me a favor, though I was not overly impressed by the service.
As I wandered home, I contemplated that Palisades Village is a wonderful place, especially for its ambience and variety of foods. And even if a picky person like me finds fault with some of the dishes, it remains one of the best destinations in Los Angeles.
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book, “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition,” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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