Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rocco's Calamari

Jamaican, Mexican, Vietnamese, Russian - I've eaten it. I've photographed it, and I've shared it.

Now it's time for some real Brooklyn Italian fare.

Funny, I know just the spot. Rocco's Calamari.

This casual Italian restaurant has it all. The kind of place where people dressed up fancy sit at a table next to thick accents and football jerseys. Where I've come with my family for over a decade, sitting next to grandma's, plumbers, and suits, listening to the old familiar Rocco call out his patrons as they come in, welcoming them as he has for years.

The kind of place you've got to try hard to order a dish over $10. The kind of place that you overhear "one butcher's sandwich," only to find out it's a huge Italian loaf stuffed with eggs, sausage, cheese, bacon and home fries. I've had a few of those in my day too. (Did I mention I was chubby in high school?)

But this time, I went with my sister for some early Brooklyn nostalgia and a meal I won't soon forget.

Check out the menu here, but keep in mind some of the prices have changed.

Potato croquettes and rice balls were a dollar each, worth the price, but I gladly would have paid more for a better filling - or any filling really.  Hot, cheesy, and full of rice, they were certainly enjoyable, but I'd like to see some seasoned ground beef and peas in there, or chunks of ham and cheese, something.

Escarole with beans, $5 for this size, $8 for a large.
The escarole was exactly what it should have been; delicious. Garlicky and full of slightly bitter, juicy greens, soft but not mushy beans, this dish kept me grounded as I tore through my main course. A great dish to share.

My sister got her old standby, penne a la vodka, $8. This is one of the more popular dishes on the menu, and for good reason.

I ordered my favorite menu item, mussels in red sauce, $10. It never lets me down, it always fills me up, and I always clean my plate. I opt for no pasta underneath, because I like to use the semolina bread as my vehicle for sauce, and the empty shells as a spoon.

These mussels were fat, sweet, and meaty. The red sauce has a nice bite to it, but is not overly chunky nor too thin. It coats the mussels well, and sops up perfectly with bread. Also available with a white sauce, I've never ordered it, but I hear good things.

Perhaps I am obligated to mention that the calamari is fantastic. My sister abstains from seafood of all kinds, so ordering the calamar' would have been a little overkill this time around. When I have ordered it, the rings are thick and lightly battered, cooked through but not chewy. I love tentacles. When we eat calamari, I pick out the tentacles first. I love the way they fry up and hold sauce. Served with marinara sauce in varying degrees of hotness and a wedge of lemon, it's sure to please all those involved.

The pasta has always been delicious at Rocco's and the eggplant parm is supposed to a real winner. I suggest that you order what speaks to -or ask Rocco, you'll recognize him.

Fresh Italian semolina bread studded with sesame seeds, ice cold water with lemon, and $25 dollars later - I needed a nap.

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