Rocco’s modern squid.

My girlfriend and I went to Rocco’s Calamari last night, which occupies the 44th spot on Sietsema’s list and a rather bizarre corner of Brooklyn.  In no real neighborhood, at the corner of what my roommate and I used to call “the FHP” and 65th Street, Rocco’s is most unimpressive from the outside.  The first time we tried to visit, we were stymied by a combination of Columbus Day and Mondays – as it turns out, Rocco’s is never open on Sundays or Mondays anyway – and we were greeted by drab red letters and a pulled-down metal curtain.  Yesterday, the red letters were lit, and the curtain was up, but we were confronted instead by a drab, large, empty room with a counter full of food and all the makings of a take-out emporium.

We ambled over to the counter once inside, spotting Sietsema’s preferred roast pepper appetizer (with capers), as well as several other things that looked appetizing: seasoned baby mozzarella, eggplant rollatini, and a meat sauce manicotti dish unlisted on the menu.  Once back at the table (our desire for table service seemingly at odds with the waitress’ desire for tips), we augmented that grouping with an order of fried calamari.  A few hunks of peasant loaf were presented to us as well.

The calamari ($9), which arrived last, was by far the best dish, and the least generic.  Fresh, perfectly fried, and flavorful, this was among the best presentations of that oft-abused shellfish I’ve ever tasted.  We had forgotten to order the spicy dipping sauce, but I daresay that it would have been unnecessary.  These squid are good enough to eat sans sauce.

My second favorite dish was probably the pepper/caper appetizer ($4.50), which arrived tossed with the mozzarella and a bit of olive oil.  As suggested by Sietsema, mounting the peppers and olive oil on the bread was extremely effective.  I found the mozzarella ($4.50) less wonderful, not immediately distinguishable from the supermarket variety.

My girlfriend loved the eggplant, rolled up with several kinds of cheese after being thinly sliced, breaded, and fried – an order of three cost $6.50, but the waitress said an order of one was also available.  I also found it good, but too similar to the manicotti (which I think cost $3.50 for one piece), and the manicotti was drenched in the far superior meat sauce.

The lasagna, which Sietsema had also praised, was unavailable on the night we were there, sadly, and we didn’t try any of the pastas (despite the garlic and oil fettuccini looking amazing).

As Italian non-pizza restaurants go, Rocco’s is certainly one of the cheapest I’ve been to.  However, other than the fried calamari, none of the dishes were truly exceptional.  That said, my girlfriend and I left with full stomachs and a slightly giddy sensation (I think an FDA sticker warning of this effect should be affixed to each and every kind of cheese), so it’s definitely a worthwhile excursion.

My Rocco’s suggestion?  Wait for a baking hot summer’s day (Mermaid Parade or Siren Festival time, perhaps?) and check out Coney Island.  On the way back, take the N to Fort Hamilton Parkway and walk the four blocks to Rocco’s.  Celebrate your independence from the dirty, sweaty hipsters by reveling in Rocco’s air-conditioning (the menu advertises it, so it must work well!), calamari, and beer.  Jug wine also available.

Leave a comment

Filed under NYC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s