More Than Pizza
Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria
79-16 21st Ave., East Elmhurst
Cuisine: Italian, American
Hours: Weekdays 6 a.m. to midnight, weekends 9 a.m. to midnight
Credit Cards: Yes, all major
When Rocco’s Pizzeria closed nearly six years ago, it left a void in this quiet neighborhood. Now, the eatery is back and better than ever with entrée options that rival the delicious pizza Rocco’s is known for.
The new Rocco’s is divided into two sides: a pizzeria and a more traditional dining room. My eating companion, reporter Megan Montalvo, and I opted for seats in the beautifully decorated sit-down section. Black and white photos of Italian families adorned the walls and the floor-to-ceiling windows allowed the sun to shine in on a perfect August afternoon.
Megan and I started with an assortment of bread brought over by Alex, our server. Overwhelmed at the sight of Rocco’s extensive menu, we decided to put our dining experience in the hands of Alex. He didn’t let us down.
Within minutes, two hefty bowls of pasta arrived at our table – one with homemade “stringetti” covered in vodka sauce and another with cencioni, a petal-shaped pasta, smothered in alfredo sauce. Rocco himself stopped by our table to explain the restaurant’s homemade pastas.
After one bite of Rocco’s stringetti with vodka sauce, I forgot I was still in Queens. Bits of prosciutto made my taste buds dance and I felt like I was in the heart of Italy. The mushrooms in the alfredo sauce brought this popular Italian sauce to another level. We would have been content with the pasta being our main course, but Alex had much more in store for us.
Our eyes grew big as we saw our entrees work their way over to our table. I had the risotto with wild mushrooms, while Megan tried the sea bass marinated in tomato sauce served on a bed of couscous.
Always a fan of risotto, Rocco’s variation did not disappoint. The wild mushrooms were plentiful and flavorful and the dish left me wishing I had more room in my stomach.
Despite being stuffed, we did not pass up dessert – a cannoli for Megan and the homemade banana pudding for myself. The pudding topped with wafers was fluffy, delicious and reminded me of my grandmother’s recipe. Coffee paired perfectly with our tasty treats.
In addition to Italian specialties, Rocco’s serves breakfast and American staples like Buffalo wings and burgers. We’ll be back to try the rest of the menu soon.