Monday, November 26, 2012

Roostica, Stock Island

I dislike clever restaurant names so I was not impressed when Roostica made the obligatory newspaper appearance as the newest eatery on Stock Island. Where Key West has too many fashionable places to eat out, Stock Island, home to the workers, has too few, though their number is growing and will grow further as they gentrify the trailer parks.
The name is derived from the Italian word for rustic combined with an ironic appreciation for the wandering wildlife made famous on Key West's streets.
So when I finally managed to get the irritating name behind me, and I had also heard from my wife who had lunch with friends there and enjoyed it we decided to meet there for lunch ourselves one day last week. There is a sign up front on MacDonald Avenue advising customers there is parking in the rear and it doesn't specify overflow parking so a dweeb like me who pays attention to signage ended up using the rear, pea rock lot for my Vespa. Which was silly as there is lots of motorcycle parking out front at the Dolphin Deli next door.
Stock Island can be fairly labeled as light industrial when it comes to scenery but nevertheless there is pleasant outdoor seating to be had if you want it.
On the whole I like eating indoors because I am a perverse character as noted previously in this space and luckily for me the interior of Roostica is attractively decorated in what I guess is New York or New Jersey Italianate style. I grew up in Italy but I have no knowledge of the Italian emigrant scene in that part of the world so when an American says "Italian" I always take it to mean "Italian-American," because when people leave home they create a new cultural baggage wherever they go to live. Maybe this is how Italian restaurants are decorated Up North, but if it isn't it should be.
To my untrained eye it looked very much like a restaurant might look in Italy with faux country fixtures and oddly patterned blown glass lampshades. The effect was eccentric and warm and inviting. I just wish the lunch tables and chairs were normal height instead of perching us, as seems to be the fashion, high in the air as though on bar stools. The plastic individual menus are repeated on the chalk board:
I was inclined toward the "big bowl" of caprese salad, out of curiosity but we decided to split lunch and shared a green salad with a bowl of meatballs.
I was astonished how much I enjoyed this simple $20 lunch. The salad was crisp and the dressing was tart and bright and not at all cloying or worse gloppy. The figs were dried but still had flavor and there were lots of them mixed in with the walnuts.
Our server, a rather intimidating young thing dressed in black with a rather gothic appearance was cheerful and speedy and properly attentive butt not irritatingly invasive. We could have had lunch in twenty minutes and been back on our way to work had we not decided to linger a bit. I really enjoyed the meal and am anxious to get back for dinner. Actually the happy hour menu looks really interesting and in addition to wine they have a nice selection of draft beers, Toasted Blue, Peroni, Moretti Red and Stella Artois.
The way out to my wife's parked car was lined with pictures which deserved a more than cursory glance. The classic immigrant family shown below and lest we forget Italians, Irish and Hungarians at the turn of the 20th century got the same disrespectful treatment Mexicans and Latin Americans get today in the US. They were berated for not knowing English and being dirty and poor and strange etc...etc...The more the world changes the more it stays the same.
Unlike so many businesses in the Lower Keys that appear to much fanfare, get a spread in the business section of the paper and promptly disappear, Roostica which is owned and operated by the Mongelli family who own Geiger Key Marina and Hogfish Restaurant also on Stock Island seems likely to stick around for a while. Locals like it from what I hear and now I have a pretty good idea why.


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