Food Porn: Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza

Before we ate at Rocco’s we took the time to read the reviews online and had several friends tell us about their meals.  Not to mention only 2 months ago Alli and I were sitting in the middle of Sorrento, Italy eating a wood fired pizza.  So we had a lot to process before we even walked through the front doors and maybe it’s not fair that we had these high expectations before giving Rocco’s a shot.

Rocco’s is owned and operated by the same family that currently runs a line up of some of Buffalo’s best restaurants; Oliver’s, 800 Maple and Siena.  So it’s safe to say that they should know what their doing, in fact Siena and 800 Maple both have wood fire pizza’s on their menu.  But Rocco’s is a restaurant that revolves around these pizzas, they state they cooked them at 900 degrees and use authentic/high quality ingredients.  They aren’t officially an AVPN pizzeria but they seem to be trying to follow the general guidelines.   They have 7 different specialty pizzas, Alli and myself decided to keep it simple and ordered their “Traditional style” (Specialties are $19/$16 for large/small).

Quick Info:

  • Restaurant Type: Casual Dining, Lounge in the back
  • Cuisine: Pizza
  • Price: Large Pizza $15, Chicken Wings ~$10
  • Location: Williamsville

Standing in the humble plaza where Rocco’s resides, you would never guess that Rocco’s is a wonderful designed restaurant that’s aiming to serve  quality cuisine.  I mean their neighbor is a Valu Home Center.  But when we walked into Rocco’s we were immediately impressed with how the owners have designed the restaurant.  There are a couple seats outside but the view isn’t that great, however there is a small dining room in the front of restaurant where you see their nice large oven.  In the rear of the restaurant you’ll see some larger, elevated tables that are remind me of “community” style tables and a hip/dimly lit lounge in the back.  The front of the restaurant is clearly designed for more families while the back is for couples or groups of adults, we sat near the lounge at an elevated table.

We decided to try their Wood Oven Roasted Chicken Wings (9 for $9), instead of deep frying their chicken wings these are marinated with lemon and olive oil and cooked in their wood fire oven.  The wings have a much different texture and tasted then what you’d expect from your corner pizza place.  Alli and I had different thoughts on the wings, she didn’t enjoy the “chewy-ness” of the skin while I liked how the fat underneath the skin had partially melted and almost gave the wings a buttery texture.  However, they are very messy and sticky to eat but the actual chicken meat was extremely juicy.  The sauce was very heavy on the lemon and it really overshadowed any garlic flavor.
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We finished off the wings before the pizza arrived, and when it did Alli and I immediately knew there was something a little off.  I know that wood fire pizza’s are suppose to have some blackened char around the crust, but our pizza looked overly well done.  The cheese had a good burn on top and the crust was almost hard to chew and just didn’t taste quite right.  Normally,  you should almost have to eat these pizzas with a knife and fork but with our pizza you could actually hold the slices and eat it by hand, nothing would slide off.    The sauce was sweet and the cheese, albeit a little burned,  had a good taste to it as well.  The basil was a bit sparse.  The large pizza was pretty thin but large enough to fill up two people. But really in the end we were disappointed, we had heard the “meh” like reviews from many people who love a good wood fired pizza but we had hoped by the time we ate there that they would have worked out some of the kinks.
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Unfortunately, our pizza fell into that unimpressed category, the ingredients were all good but the crust, like I said before, was “off” and overcooked.  Near the end of our meal our jaws  were actually fatigued from chewing so much.  Alan Bedenko just tweeted last night that at his last visit the crust had improved, so I can’t say this place isn’t worth trying out all together.  Alan definitely has a high standard for pizza and if it’s getting better for him that’s saying something, but it’s clear that at the moment Rocco’s pizza is inconsistent.  That said, I think only die hard foodies are going to be really upset with the food.  If you didn’t go into the meal with any type of wood fired/Neapolitan-style expectations  you might enjoy your meal more than we did.
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If I lived in the area I would stop at the bar and hang out for happy hours and order myself some of their wings, but I don’t and my next wood fired pizza experience will probably be at Bambino’s or whenever the hell Vera’s opens.  If Rocco’s was owned by anyone else I would have doubts that they would be able to really improve their product and start to impress foodies, but since they have a pedigree of owning some great restaurants I probably will return with the hopes of a better meal.
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Rocco's Pizza on Urbanspoon

2 thoughts on “Food Porn: Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza

  1. I cooked wings at Imperial for 5 years, I’m amazed at how places can fuck up wings (Fry wings @ 375 for 12-17 minutes & DRAIN THEM, It’s not rocket science). I can’t help but wonder if the roasted wings would be better if they were fried in peanut oil for 4 or 5 minutes then roasted. I’ve been here twice and had different experiences with the dough. Dough gets tough when it’s not used with in day or so. I also found it expensive for a large pizza and double wing, but it’s not a typical pizza joint.

    I’m also wondering when the fuck is Vera’s going to open?

    • Don Burtless

      Yea, I had no problem with the skin and the crispy-ness. I kind of liked how the fat underneath gave it a different texture, but Alli not so much. But I also appreciated the attempt to serve a (reasonably) healthy chicken wing.

      From everything I’ve heard, their ambitious floor plans combined with waiting for their liquor license is what’s holding them back. It’s definitely going to open to a lot of heightened expectations though.

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