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July 13, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Great food at Roccab's Cafe and Deli

Restaurant Review: Great food at Roccab's Cafe and Deli

By Shavon Walker

You would think Roccab's Cafe and Deli would be concerned about their location, close to a popular strip mall in San Leandro, but there's no such worry. The small cafe has something that is lacking in the other restaurants - but I'll tell you more about that later. Keep reading!

The cafe is part of a block of stores on East 14th Street, a hidden jewel. It offers at least three different and delicious vegetarian sandwiches along with meat-friendly sandwiches that include roast beef, turkey and ham. Many can be served Panini style. Their salads are also incredible.

Miguel Flores, the manager, told me that he has grown up in the restaurant business. His family had always worked in coffee shops and other small locations but his mother dreamed of owning her own restaurant. In 2005 she realized that dream when she opened Roccab in the location of a previous restaurant. "We had to fight against a bad reputation," said Flores. Now, five years later, that battle has been won.

When asked about the most popular item, Flores said it was the sandwiches. "We spend a lot of time figuring out the best combinations and have created our own seasoning," he explained. "We can make a sandwich any way the customer wants."

I decided to order the caprese Panini, while my husband ordered a turkey pesto version and our dining companion chose the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with avocado. Maria, our smiling waitress, cheerfully prepared our orders and to my surprise and pleasure, the cost for all three with chips, drinks and dessert, was less than $30.

As the others finished ordering their food, I wandered out to the back and discovered Roccab's hidden secret - its backyard view. This cafe overlooks a beautiful, overgrown creek, with blackberry brambles, eucalyptus trees, and anise plants. Butterflies and birds frequent the area. This is the cafe's ace card, the thing that sets it apart from other restaurants. The sights, sounds and smells make this spot the best place to bring your meal and relax for a few minutes, especially on a lunch hour.

But was the food worth the visit? The caprese Panini was served hot on thick, crusty foccacia with deliciously melted mozzarella cheese. This contrasted wonderfully with the fresh tomato and basil (real Italian basil!). The cafe has its own homemade aioli, and this was spread on each sandwich. This made the caprese even better.

My husband's turkey pesto was also served hot with melted cheese. Some sandwich places will slather condiments on top of the meat to hide flaws; I pulled out a piece of the turkey to nibble on it and was pleased to find that it was delicious. Fresh red peppers added a bite to the sandwich and the pesto sauce was incredible.

The bacon lettuce and tomato with avocado was just as wonderful; crunchy, well done bacon with cool lettuce and fresh tomato and avocado. Ordered on a croissant, its buttery flakiness complimented every single ingredient.

We got a chance to sample the spinach salad. Dried cranberries, green apple slices, and crumbled walnuts decorated a bed of spinach with a side of poppyseed dressing. For someone trying to increase their iron intake or lose a pound or two, this salad is something that should be on your "to eat" list - not only is it delicious, it fills you up.

We only had one problem with the salad; we ran out of poppyseed dressing in the middle of the salad and argued over who'd eaten the most. (I lost, by the way.) I joked to Flores about wishing I'd photographed the salad before we ate it and he smiled. "Everything looks exactly the same when we bring it out," he said. "Nothing is changed."

Roccab's is also known for its own personal blend of coffee; they have a special source for their beans and make wonderful lattes, cappuccinos, and other mixed drinks.

Roccab's Cafe and Deli is a great spot for lunch on any day. Good service and great food make for a fabulous experience. "We're a neighborhood place," said Flores." We're not just another place in the mall." After eating at Roccab's and seeing the view, I can definitely believe it.

Reviewed 6/25/2010

Roccab's Cafe and Deli
1070 East 14th Street, San Leandro
(510) 636-1930

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