2013-07-17 / Restaurant of the Week

Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant

Bring your family to Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria for fine family dining, Italian style. Rocco’s has been serving excellent pizza, pasta, sandwiches, entrees and more to the delight of the Jackson Heights neighborhood it serves since 1975. The tasteful, comfortable dining room is spacious and well- appointed with a handsome bar, sleek wood floors, sturdy wood tables and long, leather banquettes to seat entire families, couples and small groups. The walls are adorned with charming black and white photos of Italian family scenes, including Rocco Maniello’s own family. J. T., Mike and our lovely server, Enza, make you feel welcome and serve you with a smile. Mike will mix up a refreshing cocktail, pour a glass of wine or your favorite beer while you peruse the menu and nibble on piping hot focaccia brought from the wood- fired brick oven. Rocco’s pizzas are legendary and you can eat one casually in the more casual “pizzeria” side of the eatery, or share one in the dining room. Of course, the phone rings off the hook with pies to go and all dishes are available for takeout with free delivery. Pizzas are available in 12” or 18” sizes and are topped with your choice of fresh mozzarella, four cheeses, spinach and sausage, pepperoni, artichokes, olives and nearly anything you could think of putting on a pizza. If you’re dining in, you ought to order a pie to share as a tasty appetizer. At lunchtime or anytime the hot hero sandwiches are a big hit, with the most popular being the sausage and peppers or the Italian combo with lots of ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar for a two- handed sandwich that will keep you going all afternoon. You can also have your sandwich made on warm focaccia or rolled into a wrap or try one of the cheese and meat calzones, strombolis and pepperoni pinwheels.

Speaking of appetizers or “ antipasti”, we started with their famous risotto rice balls, handmade with creamy Arborio rice, cheese and herbs, pan fried till golden and crisp on the outside ($ 3.75). Fresh mussels Luciano are prepared in your choice of red or white wine sauce and lots of garlic and herbs. Soak up the delicious broth with Italian bread and focaccia. The baked clams are tender, juicy, and topped with crispy bread crumbs ($ 8.75) and the popular fried calamari are golden and crunchy, served with the chef’s marinara sauce. Two or more can share the appetizer trio with three eggplant rollatini, made with creamy ricotta, five hand crusted mozzarella sticks, and five hand cut, fried zucchini sticks ($ 13.95). Share a tricolore salad, antipasto salad, or Caprese salad of sliced, buttery mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.

Pasta dishes are great as a first course or the main course, with 10 varieties of pasta served with 21 different sauces and toppings. If you’re dining in, all the pasta dishes can be served in large, economical, family style portions, making it a snap for families to dine together. “Stringhetti” is homemade pasta topped with sautéed, crumbled sausage and ragu that has become a house favorite. Creamy Alfredo sauce is meant for fettuccine, while spaghetti or linguine goes best with red or white clam sauce made to order with juicy, cherrystone clams, garlic and fine olive oil ($ 13.95). Whole wheat pasta is available and tastes great served “alla Rocco” with grilled chicken, sun- dried tomatoes and spinach with a delicate sauce. Shrimp Milano is sautéed with artichoke hearts, broccoli, peppers and garlic over angel hair pasta for a light, satisfying meal.

“Secondi” or entrees include chicken, veal, fish and seafood dishes, all prepared on the spot and served piping hot. My companion’s chicken francese was fork tender and aromatic with lemony flavor ($ 13.95). Chicken Sorrentino layers a tender breast of chicken with eggplant, prosciutto and mozzarella, sautéed in a light sauce. Chicken scarpariello is served on the bone and sautéed with garlic, sausage and potatoes, lemon, white wine and Italian herbs. Veal capricciosa is a light, summer meal made of a thinly pounded breaded veal cutlet that’s topped with a mound of arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, onions, colorful peppers and zesty balsamic vinaigrette. I ordered flaky fillet of sole sautéed with white wine and capers and had a side of spaghetti with the same delicious sauce on it. Grilled salmon is served with broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes. All these entrees are served with your choice of pasta or salad. Fear not, you can always get the old standbys: chicken, veal, shrimp, meatball or eggplant parmigiana, and it will be the best you ever tasted!

There’s a display case as you enter Rocco’s showing off a variety of cakes including carrot cake, New York style cheesecake, ice cream and sorbets. We had a crunchy, filled- on- the- spot cannoli and a hunk of house made tiramisu that went well with a cup of coffee or espresso. Order a Nutella pizza for the kids and everyone is happy.

Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant is open seven days a week from 10am to midnight during the week and until 1am on Friday and Saturday. Rocco’s provides excellent catering for your next business function or family affair. Visit Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant for outstanding pizza, pasta, entrees and more in a welcoming family environment. Buon appetito!

79-16 21st Avenue  Jackson Heights

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