Lance Bass has added a restaurant and nightclub operator to his portfolio with Rocco’s casual restaurant and nightclub WeHo in West Hollywood.
He first exploded into stardom in boy band NSYNC selling over 70 million records. Bass continues his stellar career as a singer, dancer, actor, and film and television producer. As for expanding into the food and beverage industry, “I love food and come from a big family of cooks,” he explains.
“They really made me respect food, so I started my own business with my family using recipes from my sister and my mom, which will be launching on QVC this summer. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Bass is also thrilled about its partnership with Rocco’s Tavern, a well-known restaurant and bar with multiple locations in the Los Angeles area. Founded by Alexander Manos, co-partners include Roger Toussaint, Leo Amari, Johnny Liska and managing partner Adolfo Espinoza.
He never expected to be part of the restaurant industry, especially at Rocco, whom he frequented as a customer.
“I was going to watch football in Studio City and got to know the owners. They approached me about creating a gay version of Rocco’s in West Hollywood. When they told me the exact location, I knew it was perfect I’m obsessed with their bar and love their food it was awesome for me to get involved.
Rocco’s WeHo offers a variety of delicious food and beverages with freshly made-to-order burgers, wraps, pastas and salads. They will also be giving away some of their fan-favorite pizzas (including vegan) and wings that they’ve been serving for over 20 years in the Los Angeles area. The drink menu consists of WeHo de Rocco signature cocktails, Bloody Marys, wines, and 20 draft beers.
As for the success of Rocco’s, the last two years have been very difficult for the restaurant industry. However, as Bass explains, Rocco’s caters to a local clientele. So when the pandemic hit, they worked to stay open as long as possible, including serving only outside, delivery and takeout.
“Rocco’s is more than a bar, but rather a place where the community gathers and socializes. When the pandemic finally shut us down, I felt for everyone who came in daily for the camaraderie,” he says. “I’m so proud that our food is so good that people have kept us in business during the pandemic. They’ve been doing this for over 20 years so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and keep serving the best food.
Pizza is one of Rocco’s specialties with Italian and Greek influences, including Rocco’s specialty pies such as BBQ Chicken Pie topped with Grilled Chicken Breast, Rocco’s Secret BBQ Sauce Recipe and Cheese Mozzarella. The White Pie, topped with a white cream sauce, fresh garlic, spinach, mozzarella and ricotta, delights the taste buds.
“Our menu has been developed over the past 22 years,” says Manos. “I grew up in the restaurant and bar industry since I was eight years old. We first started with Rocco’s Pizza Shop with a simple menu based on pizza, salads and calzones.
As Rocco expanded to different neighborhoods, the menu was customized based on the area he served. As for Rocco’s WeHo, healthier selections are offered, including more salads. He predicts that this will be a trend for all of his establishments.
“I grew up in Italy and we love our heartier pasta dishes. We will still offer Italian food but not as heavy,” says Manos.
Rocco’s aims to give back and has worked with various organizations throughout its 20 year history, especially in their local neighborhoods. In May, for World Dog Day, Bass representing Rocco’s, judged the Dog Fashion Show and Dog Pie Eating Contest.
“It was a fun day for the community, and we will be involved in other events like World Dog Day,” he says.
“Because of my Greek origins, I was always taught to give back,” adds Manos. “We give back to our local schools and sports teams. Some locations are family friendly, and our other locations focus on adults.
WeHo de Rocco creates a strong sense of local community and wants to reflect this in the artwork. In collaboration with One Archives and Michael Turchin, James Kirtley has created a visual representation of the LGBTQ+ movement through photography, dynamic graphic designs and paintings with their artistic journey. This timeline depicts LGBTQ+ civil rights struggles and victories from the 1940s to the present day. It serves as a history lesson on how far the movement has come and a reminder that staying vigilant is crucial. But not all of the artwork inside Rocco is so serious, and there are fun vintage posters and framed comic advertisements throughout the place. Rocco’s wants to remind its customers of the importance of love, and that pride is victory and #proud2be.
Since opening in 2021, Armstrong has proven to be a successful restaurateur and is now adding a nightclub operator with its new nightclub, Heart, which opened in February.
“It makes more sense for me to open a club,” he laughs. “I really love hospitality, entertainment and throwing parties. I loved all parties, especially Halloween and New Year’s Day and Eve when I was a kid. I love making people happy and bring them together. I want to create the best nightlife this world has to offer with this new club.
Since Bass has frequented (and partied) clubs all over the world, he knows what kind of experience he wants to deliver. Bass knows what he likes and wants when he goes to a club, so he plans to create the same for his customers.
In fact, Heart sits across the street from Rocco’s WeHo and has taken over the building that once housed the iconic Rage Club, a place of entertainment for over 30 years. “When we had the chance to take it over, I jumped on it. It’s the perfect place, and I want to make it a safe community space. We don’t have a real official dance club or nightclub in West Hollywood You’d think the gay capital of the world would have a real nightclub.
He develops an “entertainment menu” with dancing for the new club all night long. Bass plans to make every night at the club different. Think Troubadour, only now the gay version. Bass plans to showcase great artists with the best lights and sound as an entertainment venue for everyone. The menu, prepared in its state-of-the-art kitchen, will feature high-end dishes such as crab cakes and tuna tartare, while guests will also head to Rocco’s if they fancy a good Italian.
“Although we intended Heart to be more experience-based, we still wanted to offer foods that our customers could enjoy while enjoying the experience,” Manos explains. “We put a lot of shared plates on the menu, like crispy tuna rice and wrapped shrimp skewers.”
The Rocco’s Tavern concept was created by its four owners, three of whom grew up in Staten Island and one native of Los Angeles. They’ve been serving their community for over 20 years, famous for their pizza, wings, beer, and great sports vibe. Their locations are in Studio City, Culver City, Pasadena, Westwood Village, and West Hollywood. Rocco’s menu items and sporty vibe are available at their location near the University of Southern California, 901 Bar & Grill. It is now planned to expand to Palm Springs, Fort Lauderdale, and then nationwide.
For more information, visit roccostavern.com and follow on Instagram @roccostavern. Heart WeHo is located at 8911 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Visit heartweho.com for more information and follow on Instagram @@HeartWeHo.