Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza sits along Transit Road and isn’t exactly an obvious stop from the road. Frankly the outside of Rocco’s is butt ugly. There’s really no other way to say it in my opinion. It’s clean, it serves it’s purpose, but it’s not cute. The restaurant sits in a half-baked plaza next to the notorious Value Hardware store. But we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t caution you to remember what your mama told you. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
By some of the same owners of Sienna and 800 Maple, the inside of the upscale pizza place is large, yet cozy and inviting, and features a wood-burning brick pizza oven.
If you’re craving wood-fired pizza or some quality Italian in a laid-back atmosphere enjoyable for both kids and adults, this is just what the doctor ordered. It fits the bill perfectly for a group outing, a family dinner and even a pizza and beer kind of date night. We recommend showing up hungry and not leaving until the job is finished – that is apps, pizza, entrees and dessert (which we regret skipping).
Rocco’s menu offers a short but well rounded list of Italian appetizers and small plates ($5.95 – 9.95) like Pasta Fagioli, Homemade Tripe with basil & chick peas, and Garlic Toast with Rocco’s sauce. They also serve sandwiches ($9.50-14.95), for example a house made burger, grilled eggplant and Italian Pulled Pork with Tomato Sauce. Italian specialties ($13.95-29) include Veal Parmesan and Spaghetti. Plus they have traditional and wood-oven wings ($10.75 for a single), wood-fired pizzas like Margherita, Broccoli Rabe, White and Arugula ($12.95-21) and several daily specials. If you enjoy Italian cuisine the problem here will be narrowing the list.
Upon entering we found a convenient little take-out counter to the right and a large dinning room to the left, which extends back a ways, including a section of community style high-top tables and a nice bar with a lounge. On your way to any table you’ll notice two flaming brick ovens – that’s where they make the good stuff.
- Homemade Burrata (special) with melted buttery leeks, garlicky dandelions, roasted tomatoes and balsamic, $12.95.
Burrata is mozzarella cheese mixed with cream encased in solid mozzarella, creating a creamy texture inside. This one was nice and fresh, mildly creamy and sort of neutral in flavor. The plate as a whole was unexpectedly cool with the leek/tomato “slaw” and dandelions that looked and tasted a lot like spinach.
- Aranchini – Fried risotto ball with Rocco’s tomato sauce
Never one(s) to pass up a “fried rice ball” we couldn’t say no to this appetizer. It’s always fun to compare popular dishes across Western New York, and this is becoming one of our favorites to try whenever it’s offered. Rocco’s was good, very traditional. I have to say, it’s no Black Market Food Truck pickled pork aranchini with jalapeno crema, but if you’ve got a hankering for warm and cozy food order this. As is always the rule with aranchini, order more than one if you plan to share with more than two people.
- Open Ravioli (special) with mixed exotic mushrooms, asparagus and goat cheese, $11.95.
Can we all agree that open faced, deconstructed food is just more fun? The sauce on this was thick without being over-the-top creamy, the small pieces of asparagus firm and and the shrooms meaty.
- Homemade Meatball Specialty Pizza with hot peppers, ricotta, romano and mozzarella, large for $21.
The bones of this pizza are solid – the crust perfectly cooked and the toppings generously applied leaving only a small outer crust. The toppings (meatball, etc.) were enjoyed by some at the table but the flavor was underwhelming for others. Next time I think I’ll try their White or Arugula.
5433 Transit Road, Clarence, NY 14221
Cuisine: Wood-Fired Pizza, Italian
Good for: Lunch, Dinner, bar, family friendly, pizza