A New Take on Latin Street Food
Meet Chef Rolando Anoceto
By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
Published August, 2021
When the space adjacent to City Cellar became available in Rosemary Square (formerly CityPlace in downtown West Palm Beach), the restaurant's owners -- Big Time Restaurant Group -- approved taking it over for a new dining concept, one that celebrated Latin street food and drink. That was the genesis for Barrio, brought to life by City Cellar's executive chef, Rolando Anoceto.
Now seven months old, Barrio has become an integral part of City Cellar, offering Anoceto a new culinary canvas to create exciting dishes that reflect his Cuban heritage. Sitting at one Barrio's outdoor tables, Anoceto talked about how it came to be.
"We wanted Barrio to be the embodiment of Floridian cuisine," Anoceto said, "finger foods, upscale bar food with a Latin street food influence -- food that's very approachable." He cited as examples standard fare like wings, beer cheese and fried fish, but adding a unique aspect as to how it's prepared and the ingredients used.
He called the chance to incubate a new concept restaurant exciting. "I'm grateful the owners gave me the opportunity. The timing and stars aligned for me to take this project on," he said.
Born and raised 10 minutes "from where we are right now," his passion for food started when he was a student at Lake Worth High School. After high school, one of his early jobs was at City Cellar, where he worked as a line cook. A few years later, he relocated with his family to Pennsylvania, where over the next seven years he held positions of both sous chef and executive chef, developing menus and training staff at venues both public and private.
In 2017, he returned to Florida, becoming sous chef where his career started, at City Cellar. Two years later, he was promoted to executive chef.
When asked about the menu, he said his favorite dish from both Barrio and City Cellar are the conch fritters. He had his first conch fritter as a 9-year-old on a cruise ship, during a stop in the Bahamas. "I was in love." (They are spectacular, by the way.)
Other favorites include the wings, prepared with a Spanish dry rub of pimento de la vera and then fried very crispy, served with blue cheese dressing.
He also is a fan of the beer cheese and the fried tempura fish. "For the beer cheese, I developed a recipe that uses manchego and a beer from Spain called Mahou lager," he said. The fish dish -- "Mahi Frito" -- utilizes coconut tempura with key lime tarter. More about both in the accompanying review.
Anoceto said Barrio draws from his 17 years of food industry experience, and hopes it will be a signature achievement for Big Time Restaurant Group.
With Chef Rolando at the helm, it’s off to a solid start.
Sampling the Menu
From the outdoor bar area, left, we moved into the City Cellar dining room for some welcome AC. We started with cocktails. Pam had the Cucumber Mint Martini, with gin and lime, while I went with the tropical Skinny Shaken Pina Colada, a refreshing take on the drink classic with mint and lime added.
Here are Chef Roly's famous Conch Fritters, and they lived up to the hype. They came served with a mango habanero chutney and smoked pepper aioli. Among the best we've had.
On the left is the beer cheese, served with hot pretzel bread. We couldn't get enough of its vibrant flavor combination. Right are the saffron spiced, honey butter wings and blue cheese dip. You haven't had wings like these before.
Then came the Mahi Frito -- perfectly prepared with a coconut tempura and served with key lime tarter sauce.
Every bite was so, so satisfying. Bravo!