From Rhody to Rules: Rhode Island Native Lands on Vanderpump Rules

Rocco Jweinat,Ken + Lisa Vanderpump

A necessity to any Bravoholic’s DVR is Vanderpump Rules.  The addictive reality show (that plays sometimes more like a telenovela) follows a group of restaurant staff members who are navigating Hollywood and their hearts.  Their booze-filled parties and dramatic situations (was it really about the pasta?!) have captivated us for seven seasons while Real Housewives of Beverly Hills OG Lisa Vanderpump sits at the head of the table.  On the premiere episode of the current season we saw Vanderpump and her husband Ken sitting in Rocco Jweinat’s section.  Rocco, a Rhode Island native who grew up in Newport, will be seen throughout the season.   The Rogers High School alum also appeared on E!’s Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian earlier this year where we saw him transform in body, mind and spirit.  Rocco is no stranger to the restaurant business; when he was last in RI he was employed at 22 Bowen’s in Newport.  I caught up with Rocco on life as a Vanderpump employee, who he kicks it with from the cast and how much we’ll see of him this season on Pump Rules.

When did you move to California?  Any particular reason?  

Rocco:  I moved to California in November of 2016. I wasn’t really sure why, I just knew I wanted to make a change. Back in 2013, my younger sister Alysha moved to LA to pursue Artist Managment and she was the first person in our family to really jump and make the move. Seeing her progress and chase her dreams really inspired me. With where I was in my life, I knew whatever I was doing in RI, I could do the same thing in Cali, if not more. So why not take the same leap and see what LA could offer me. 

You were on Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian which aired on E!…would you say that you got bit by the reality TV bug?

Rocco:  Not necessarily, Revenge Body came to me so fast and was one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I applied to RB in a very vulnerable state… LA is a pretty tough place to live and I started wondering why I even came out here. I was overweight and a bit homesick. I saw Khloe’s ad on Instagram late one night and just applied. I didn’t think I would even get picked but I did. Without Revenge Body, I wouldn’t be who I am today. This is the best I have felt mentally, physically and spiritually. 

Did you watch Vanderpump Rules prior to being featured on the show?

Rocco:  The first few seasons, I think anyone that is in their 20s is familiar with the show. 

When did you begin working at Villa Blanca?  What was the hiring process like?

Rocco:  I began working at Villa Blanca September of 2017. During the hiring process, I had to meet with Ken and Lisa. It was pretty much a standard hiring process of interviews and getting to know the menu. They did, however, make it very clear that this was a family business and keeping that family atmosphere was important to them. Which shows when you dine at Villa Blanca, we treat our guest like family and I knew instantly I wanted to work there. It felt like home.

What were your first impressions of Lisa Vanderpump?  Were you intimidated?  

Rocco:  To be honest, I was shook. Meeting Lisa and Ken Vanderpump was like meeting the Godfather. However, I felt an instant connection and once they saw my work ethic, I think they knew my intentions of working there was pure. I grew up in a family restaurant and I love the family dynamic of Villa. 

What’s it like working for Lisa + Ken?

Rocco: Working for Lisa and Ken, almost feels like working back home with my own parents. I just want to do what I can to make them proud. They have high standards for there staff and aren’t afraid to critique when needed.

Was it intimidating trying to do your job as a server with cameras filming you?

Rocco: Yes, especially the first day filming when I was waiting on Lisa and Ken. I just kept telling myself to “be your self-man” because, at the end of the day, I was there to do my job and make sure my guest had a great experience. The only difference was, this time it was being filmed.

We saw you quickly in the premiere of season 7…will we be seeing more of you throughout the season?

Rocco:I really don’t know. I just show up to work and when cameras turn on, you just got to be ready and go with it. I was honored to be apart of the opening of Lisa’s new restaurant TomTom and my transition to TT was documented & was there during filming, so I guess we’ll both have to just wait and see. 

Would you say that you’re friendly with certain main cast members?  Who?

Rocco:The cast as a whole has been very welcoming and humble to me. Billie Lee has become one of my dearest and new friends. We actually go to the same gym, Training Mate, in West Hollywood, CA, which is the gym that my trainer from Revenge Body owns, Luke Milton. Lisa and Ken’s son Max is also one of the dopest guys I’ve met out in LA, James too, he’s fun anytime we go out. Tom & Tom make for some good times at Karaoke (99/00s POP is the go too.)

What’s it like at a, “See You Next Tuesday”  party? 

Rocco:Well, let’s just say James Kennedy knows how to get the party going and the drinks flowing. Believe it or not, the kids got flow. He earned the title as, “White Kanye”.

What’s your go-to dish/drink at the various Vanderpump spots?

Villa Blanca – Vanderpump Rose paired with Crispy Rice and Spicy Tuna (it’s the family’s favorite and mine too).

TomTom – Doc Holiday paired with the Spicy Cauliflower Wings (this is Tom and Tom’s favorite dish as well)

Pump – when at Pump, order a Pumptini

SUR – Vanderpump Rose paired with Goat Cheese Balls

What else can you tell us about your experience on Vanderpump Rules?  

 Rocco:I just learned to be yourself at all times but always know people are watching. This has definitely been one of the best summers of my life. A lot went down,  Definitely stay tuned for allll the drama!

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