2012-04-25 / Restaurant of the Week

Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant

We are happy to welcome back Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant in Jackson Heights. Rocco’s has just celebrated a grand re-opening after a lengthy closure to provide for expansion and renovation, creating a whole new Rocco’s. One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of the excellent food and service. The original site of the pizzeria was renovated to include a brand new kitchen and wood-burning pizza oven which produces the crispiest, most flavorful pies around. Now, the corner property adjacent houses the full service dining room, which is spacious, clean and well-appointed. The sleek wood floors, sturdy wood tables and long, leather banquettes provide ample seating for both couples dining and entire families, as well as everyone in between. The gold leaf distressed walls are adorned with black and white photos of Italian family scenes with one “nonna” who looks remarkably like my own! Though Rocco’s reopened just a couple of weeks ago, the dining room was already nearly full with happy diners glad to have their favorite spot back.

It all started in 1975 when Rocco Manniello, just 16 years old at the time, opened his eponymous restaurant on a quiet slice of Jackson Heights, next to LaGuardia Airport. Today, Rocco is still very involved and so is his son Michael, ensuring that every dish served meets their exacting standards. They’ve even gone and opened a second restaurant in Whitestone called “Trattoria Neo”, which serves the same delicious cuisine.

We started with two glasses of Chianti from their fully stocked bar which also offers your favorite cocktails and beer. A generous “buy two get one drink free” policy is in place every night. To start, we tried some of their crispy, wood-oven pizza, topped with fresh mozzarella, just the right amount of tomato and slices of savory prosciutto, and deemed it perfect. This pizza is available in the adjacent pizzeria and for take-out in the 12-inch size only. Though we could have easily polished off the whole delicious pie, we exercised restraint in favor of trying their famous risotto rice balls, handmade with creamy Arborio rice, cheese and herbs, pan fried till golden and crisp on the outside ($2.75 each). The baked clams are fresh and topped with crispy bread crumbs ($8.75) and the mussels are prepared in your choice of red or white wine sauce and lots of garlic and herbs. This aromatic broth is meant to be soaked up with their house made foccaccia bread from the pizza oven. Crispy calamari rings are served with zesty sauce and the eggplant rollatini are light and fluffy. The kids will love the hand sliced chicken tenders, fried zucchini sticks and mozzarella sticks. An antipasto platter offers many of these appetizers for two or more to share.

Entrées include pasta, meat, chicken, fish and seafood dishes, all prepared on the spot and served piping hot. I loved the chicken sorrentino; a tender breast of chicken layered with eggplant, prosciutto and mozzarella, then sautéed in a light sauce ($13.95). This savory dish is available with veal as well. My companion enjoyed the plump shrimp prepared oreganata style with bread crumbs and a light white wine sauce, served on a bed of fresh spinach with mushrooms ($16.95). Fresh grilled salmon is served with broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes for a light, healthy meal. Roasted veal with peppers and onions in red wine sauce is another popular dish, as is the chicken cacciatore, served on the bone with garlic, peppers, mushrooms, olives and wine in plum tomato sauce ($13.95). All these entrées are served with your choice of pasta, salad or French fries.

Rocco’s offers many fresh pasta dishes such as homemade gnocchi, “stringetti” topped with crumbled sausage ragu, and black linguine, topped with a mélange of shrimp, clams and mussels in delicious marinara sauce. Choose your favorite sauce among primavera, carbonara, broccoli rabe and sausage, pesto and Alfredo, for example, and choose your favorite pasta to go with it, such as fettuccine, linguine, ziti, penne, stringetti or gnocchi to create your favorite dish, all at reasonable prices.

Pizzas and hero sandwiches fly out the door at Rocco’s with so many tempting choices. The wood-burning pizzas are available in 12-inch size with your choice of toppings. Regular pizzas come with all your favorite toppings and are available by the slice or by the 18-inch pie, to stay or to go. The most popular hero sandwiches are the potatoes and eggs (my fave) and the sausage and peppers. The Italian combo layers lots of ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar for a two-handed sandwich that will keep you going all afternoon. There are also cheese and meat calzones, strombolis and pepperoni pinwheels.

The dessert case at the entrance will tempt you with carrot cake, three layer chocolate cake, cannolis, homemade banana pudding, cheesecake and even Nutella pizza. Rocco’s has started serving breakfast, from 6am so stop in on your way to work for an egg sandwich to go, cheese omelet, Western omelet, French toast, pancakes and more.

Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant is open seven days a week from 6am to 12 midnight for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch. They will happily cater your next private or business function, so leave the cooking to them and impress your guests. You’ll be happy to know that Rocco’s is back, bigger and better than ever!

79-16 21st Avenue
Jackson Heights  718.721.3535


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