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ROCCO’S 7-19-01 For years I’ve sung the praises of Montesano’s and I’m still a fan. But as good as this heavy weight of Italian-American food is, it has some west side competition these days from a scrappy little bantamweight named Rocco. Rocco’s may not have the size, but it definitely has the punching power to go the distance with any pizzeria slash deli in town.

What first catches your attention as you turn the corner at Charleston and Buffalo is the bizarre shopping center that holds this hidden gem of good eats. Tiny strip malls house just about everything retail around here, but the Buffalo/Charleston Plaza is weirder than most, filing every need from the spiritual to the secular. Everything from teen driving to body balancing is available from this—uh—one-stop shopping Mecca. You can buy a safe or simply trust your good fortune to some plastic angels which, I guess will bless you and yours right down to your pup that needs a cut, as in dog grooming if all this well being gets you hungry, then sidle over to Rocco’s for some serious stromboli, super-stuffed pizza, and enough hot and cold heroes to satisfy the Soprano’s cast.

The place never seems all that busy, but sit down in the décor-free dining area and you’ll notice that the customers just keep on coming…entire families arrive, full of big hair and brassiness, as if someone called central casting. From the first wisecrack you’ll know you’re not at Domino’s…and so do they. Most peruse, then order one of those aforementioned forearm-sized sandwiches, a slice or two of authentically thin-crusted and cheesy pies, or grab some takeout from the good house-made pastas and salads. The whole family seems to be busting their butts, both in the back where everything is made and out front for Vinnie and Maria. The only thing’s that’s missin’ from this Arthur Avenue transplant—from da Bronx that is—is a blaring TV turned to a Yankees game…”hey ya got a problem wit dat?”

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You do and my cousin Rocco may just teach you and yours a lesson about da fine art of Italian dining.

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