Rocco’s Italian Restaurant has been one of my favorite restaurants since I was a child. Anytime my family would ask me where I wanted to go to eat, I would almost always say Rocco’s. I am a spaghetti connoisseur, meaning that I go seek out restaurants that serve great spaghetti. I rate the ones I do find. For many years, Rocco’s has been at the top of my list. The restaurant has changed ownership recently, which has resulted in some changes…
Food and Prices
Rocco’s has always had great food. My favorite, as mentioned above, is the spaghetti. The sauce to me has been quite magical. They used a unique blend of spices in the meat sauce which made this perfect flavorful experience. I couldn’t believe how much I liked this sauce. It has been so wonderful, that on a regular basis I have stopped in to buy a quart of meat sauce, and made my own pasta noodles to go with it. For about $6 for a quart, I was able to make enough spaghetti for about four to six servings. It seemed, however, toward the end of the previous owner’s reign, that less and less meat was being used in the meat sauce. I even sometimes had started to purchase a side container of just the meat, and once in awhile this was actually mixed with sauce, so I still found there not to be enough meat. Only one “scoop” of meat was used for each quart of the sauce. The scoop size was about a cup.
With the change of ownership, however, came a change in the recipe for the meat sauce. This was good and bad. Now, there is always plenty of meat. There is so much meat in the meat sauce that the sauce takes a back seat. Additionally, the flavor of the sauce seems to have changed a bit. The flavor is still good, but it is not the extraordinary delicacy that it once was. I still will go in and order the meat sauce, but I am not as happy with the taste.
The general food menu of Rocco’s has not changed much with the new ownership. Some of the appetizers offered include breaded mushrooms, steamed shrimp with old bay seasoning, wings with hot sauce or barbecue sauce, and breaded cheese sticks. The price range is $3.39 to $14.99 (which is for the pound of steamed shrimp.) I recommend the breaded cheese sticks. A tossed salad can be purchased for $2.99 to go with any meal. A salad comes with some of the meals, but not the pasta dishes.
My recommendation for an entree is of course the spaghetti with meat sauce for $8.99. Other pasta dishes include pasta primavera, lobster ravioli, chicken marsala, and seafood alfredo. These range in price from $10 to $14. Salad must be added for $2.99. One nice thing about this restaurant is that they serve veal parmigiana. It seems that many restaurants have stopped serving veal, but the dish is available here! Some of the seafood dishes served are broiled or stuffed flounder, broiled haddock, salmon steak, and fried shrimp, clams, scallops and oysters. The prices are from $10 to $15. Although the seafood served here is decent, I recommend sticking with the pasta dishes. The quality of the seafood is fair, but not excellent. The pasta dishes are much more their specialty. Pizzas are also served for $7 to $13. For dessert, try the spumoni ice cream. I find this very hard to find many places anymore, even Italian restaurants. Other desserts include featured items such as a sundae or chocolate cake, or some Italian dessert. These range from $3 to $6.
Setting and Service
The setting of the restaurant has always been nice. The lights are dim, giving a romantic setting. I recall back in the 1970’s when I was a child how this was one of the first restaurants I ate in that I enjoyed the ambience as much as the food. The ambience still seems romantic, and this is an excellent place to take a Friday night date. There is a main section of the restaurant on the left side of the building, which includes a balcony seating area for dinner. On the right side, is the new Sports Bar and Lounge. The Bar stays open an extra hour, and has big screen tv’s for viewing sports events. This is a recent addition since the new ownership took over.
The staff is very friendly at Rocco’s, including the new ownership. Everyone in the kitchen staff and management knew me from coming in for Spaghetti sauce to go on a regular basis. I hope that soon the new owners and staff will get to know me. Everytime I have gone in to pick up sauce everyone has been incredibly friendly. When I call to ask questions, the staff has gone out of their way to help me.
A benefit of the new ownership is that the restaurant is open more. I always found it frustrating that Rocco’s was closed on Sunday and Monday, because it was often one of those two days that I had available to pick up sauce or dine there. Now, the restaurant is open 7 days per week. They open at 4 and close at 9 on weekdays, opening two hours earlier on Saturday and Sunday. The bar stays open until 10 where you can go for drinks after dining.
Rocco’s has been around since 1936. That’s a long time for a restaurant to survive in Hagerstown, MD. The tradition has been kept alive for many years. Some famous people have even eaten here! I know one of them has been the singer Tony Bennett! Hopefully, Rocco’s will continue to provide an Italian restaurant family or private owner dining establishment for years to come. It is nice to know that there are some places left there are not huge chains. I enjoy the ambience and the people, as well as the spaghetti sauce and reasonable prices. I recommend this restaurant as an inexpensive alternative for families and couples.