Chef Giovanni Rocchio is on a culinary journey; but unlike many of his world travels, this new adventure is only taking him a few steps from his popular Italian restaurant, Valentino. For the last three years, Rocchio has used the large space adjacent to his Fort Lauderdale restaurant as an extended kitchen, where he would make and form his pastas and store additional ingredients and supplies. These days, that space situated one door east of Valentino is a construction zone, where his newest restaurant, aptly named One Door East, is being resurrected. With this venture, Rocchio is stepping out of his well-known Italian box and carving new culinary muscles to tackle global tapas.

“I’m thrilled to be doing something different,” Rocchio says, as we talk in a secret Rio Vista studio that the chef now uses to make his pastas. “I’ve been doing Italian food since I was a young boy. I think this is a great opportunity to expand my horizons. I’ll study it, and I’ll do it correctly.”

Just like his travels, there won’t be any boundaries when it comes to the cuisine at One Door East. The 49-year-old chef says the tapas menu will have influences from the United States, Asia and Spain. “The idea came about on my last trip to Spain,” he says. “I traveled from Barcelona to San Sebastián and I was really impressed by the cuisine, so a lot of the items will be Spanish-influenced.” This includes one of his favorites on the One Door East menu: paella. “I think it’s really hard to find a good paella, so I learned how to make it from a friend of mine who worked for a long time in Spain. It’s as good as any risotto I can make.”

Rocchio is always studying and learning from other chefs with different backgrounds. Earlier this year, he hosted a monthly Guest Chef Dinner Series at Valentino where he invited world-class chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants to collaborate on multicourse meals. Rocchio used those dinners to master new skills and cuisine, and he’s now making weekly trips to Miami to work with a Korean chef to beef up his Asian cooking skills.  

“I like to be surrounded by individuals on the highest level,” Rocchio says. “These are the people that I can actually look up to and have a appreciation for their art.” 

The casual-cool One Door East will have a totally different vibe from the upscale Valentino, with decor inspired by the trendy Meatpacking District in New York City. “The space used to be an oil-changing garage, so we left the exposed steel beams and all the wood,” Rocchio says. “There will be a bigger bar so that there can be more interaction between people.” While Rocchio describes Valentino as a “special occasion” place, he sees this new concept as a more laid-back destination where regulars can drop in nightly.

Rocchio hopes to open One Door East by the end of October. “That will be right before season, so it’ll give us a few weeks to work out any imperfections or flaws that are associated with an opening. So, we’ll be ready.” And so are we.