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Rocco’s Tacos

Since opening in West Palm Beach 11 years ago, Rocco’s Tacos has become a fast-growing brand in the Big Time Restaurant Group, with nine locations. We spoke to Culinary Director Lisabet Summa about cooking real Mexican food.

How would you describe Rocco’s Tacos? What sets it apart?

We are a modern Mexican restaurant. We provide a vibrant, fun dining experience with all of our decor sourced in Mexico and artisan-made. Plus, we have more than 400 bottles on our tequila list. Part of our appeal is that we use fresh ingredients: We have a scratch kitchen, and everything is made by hand. We workshop every new dish, so nothing goes on the menu without a thorough vetting process. Sometimes that means taking an ingredient or two away to let the simple flavors shine.

What would you recommend to a first-time visitor?

It’s no secret that tacos are ever-present on our menu. You come for the tacos, and stay for everything else: the drinks, the homemade churros, the wonderful staff, the whole experience. We have a huge menu selection, and we don’t focus on one region, but instead we bring together a broad range of Mexican cookery, as well as some Tex-Mex favorites.

What would you recommend for someone looking to try something new?

I’d recommend the chiles rellenos. Our chiles come from Mexico and are extraordinary in the complexity of their flavor. Chiles from Mexico have a fruity flavor in addition to their heat.

How did you start cooking Mexican food?

We cook what we love, and I love Mexican food. I grew up in Chicago, where there is a lot of great Mexican food. When I moved to South Florida, I was struck by the lack of diversity of ethnic restaurants. But today, Mexican restaurants have become one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry. People are falling in love with Mexican food all over again! And Rocco’s isn’t just riding the crest of this wave—we’re the ocean underneath it!

What kinds of items do you typically source from Sysco?

Sysco is our mainline grocery supplier, but they have become so much more. As Sysco has expended and brought other businesses under their umbrella, they’ve become a one-stop shop for us. You get the diversity of service of having your personal meat guy plus the efficiency of Sysco’s large operation.

How has Sysco been an integral partner in your success?

We are a high-volume business, so we need the streamlined ordering process that Sysco offers. Sysco joined us when we were much smaller, and it was their support, when we were still young as a brand, that has helped us scale our business. It all started with a great relationship with their sales team, and that remains at the heart of our collaboration.

What’s next for Rocco’s Tacos?

We are not young anymore, but we are still super-ambitious. The success of this brand and how it’s been received by the public has fueled our ambition. And the success of our brand has also allowed people to thrive in their own careers. That’s the biggest privilege of working here, and the thing I’m most proud of—seeing people grow up, meet their spouses, get promotions, buy a house—all while working for us. It’s one thing to have a successful restaurant, but another to hear people say they really like working for this company.