a quick conversation with rocco

In the November issue of Cleveland Magazine, I wrote two small articles. One took a look at four restaurants that offer al fresco dining practically year round, while the other was a very quick peak at a recent conversation with chef Rocco Whalen of Fahrenheit.

For the Rocco piece, I noticed the editors did some heavy editing. Not surprising since I have to come to realize that pretty much everything I turn in gets morphed into something else (which isn’t necessarily always a bad thing), but also because this piece was meant to be under 300 words and I didn’t exactly stick to that.

I can appreciate a guy like Rocco. Like me, he likes to talk. He’s very easy to talk to and shared a lot – from his restaurant, to his love and admiration for the city and his fellow chefs to his future (like perhaps a cooking school in Cleveland someday…).

At any rate, here’s what I actually turned in. It still doesn’t cover my entire chat with him, but does offer a little more.

Changes @ Fahrenheit

Chef Rocco Whalen attributes the seven-year (plus a few months) itch to Fahrenheit’s revamped menu as well as other changes inside and out of the popular Tremont eatery.

“It was time for an overhaul,” he explains. “Time to get rid of the tablecloths, update the furniture, bring back some menu favorites and finally, we were able to finally secure the patio all while staying competitive with the economy.”

Whalen is proud of the fact that you can come to Fahrenheit and spend as little ($20 for a couple beers and a pizza) or as much as you want.

Even though the menu technically changes every six weeks to reflect the chef’s inventive and fresh approach to food (the restaurant doesn’t even house a freezer!), look for a few popular items to become more permanent, including his mom’s little meatballs with roasted garlic tomato reduction, rare beef carpaccio, chicken spring rolls and the Kobe short ribs. And thanks to the persistence of one woman over the years, the crispy fried goat cheese salad with balsamic greens is now back, a dish that was on the original menu.

Regardless if you visit next month, or 10 years from now, there is one dish that will always be on the menu: the coffee and mustard crusted pork tenderloin. “This dish is my representation of Cleveland,” Whalen explains. “I take it off and I get death threats!”

While Rocco may have had the itch to change a few things, one thing is for certain, this Mentor native is devoted to this neighborhood and isn’t leaving anytime soon.

“This neighborhood for me is the kitty’s meow,” he says. “We have the best food, chefs, stores – everything right here. Now that doesn’t take away from my boys in Ohio City, but I truly do love this place. Mike [Symon] started something great and I just love being here.”


  1. Allison M.
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I’m a fan of the martinis there. They have this berry lemonade one. Just think, you can drink that in a few weeks!

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