Mere minutes after chatting with us by phone, Sandra Prado followed up by email.
“I am sorry if the conversation felt rushed, but life is very fast-paced for me these days,” she wrote, which is something of an understatement when you’re a woman with three children under the age of three: 22-month-old son Rocco, 8-month-old daughter Olivia, and a 2-month-old restaurant, Roc & Olive, that is named for them.
Roc & Olive also references the Long Beach eatery’s cocktail menu. “The drinks on the left are the ones with rocks, and the ones on the right are with olives — the martinis,” she explained.
The restaurant takes over the spot that for more than 10 years had been Lola’s Craft Kitchen & Cocktails. Prado re-christened the place on May 1, nine years to the day that she was hired as a server at Lola’s.
“I was a server, a bartender, a front-of-house manager — I was nine months pregnant behind the bar,” laughed the 35-year-old. And when Lola’s owner Mark McCarthy offered her the chance to buy him out earlier this year, Prado jumped at the opportunity.
She’d dreamed of running a restaurant — “it was something that was always in the back of my mind” — although oddly that dream had never included running it with two young children in tow. Then again, it wasn’t as if she was completely leaping into the abyss. “People already would come in and ask for me by name, I had my own patrons at the bar. And when I took over, I knew what the customers liked, knew what they wanted to keep, and knew what would upset them if we didn’t keep it.”
Among the Lola’s holdovers: the seafood paella ($45) and a vegetarian version ($36), which Prado said that she and chef Robert Verity “enhanced and made our own.” It’s Verity, a former sous chef at Blackstone Steakhouse, that Prado credited as “the driver behind the updated menu,” which also grandfathered in Lola’s stuffed pretzel with brie and fig jam ($9).
She estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the menu had changed, however. Among the new standouts is a grilled pork chop and sweet potato mash topped with blueberry chutney ($27), and a braised short rib with creamy polenta ($26).
Is life different on the other side of the restaurant ledger? Oh yes. “It’s harder being a female,” Prado said. Most of the vendors she works with are male and “when they come and see my manager, they immediately want to walk up and shake his hand. I have to say ‘wait a minute.’ ”
Still, “everyone has been very supportive," she said. And while it’s hard nurturing both two young children and a restaurant, Prado believes it’s only a matter of time before one investment pays dividends in the other. “Some of my employees and customers have children the same age as mine. And I tell them, just think, in 15 years we will have free labor — all the servers and busboys we’ll need.”
Roc & Olive is at 180 W. Park Ave. in Long Beach, 516-442-1090, rocandolive.com. It is open for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; Sunday brunch is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday dinner is from 4 to 9 p.m.