By Robin Intemann
Updated: September 7, 2017 at 12:28 pm • Published: September 7, 2017
A tune comparing love to the moon and a pizza pie is like Rocco's Italian Restaurant: It's a classic.
I haven't dined here in a long time, but it's been part of the local dining scene since 1982 in the same strip mall at Maizeland Road and Academy Boulevard. Only now it's a few doors west. I remember a dark interior where good Italian cuisine was served. Much remains unchanged.
Subdued lighting and well-prepared Italian fare must be part of Rocco's identity. The move occurred in 2013, and along with a new address came a change of ownership. The latter took place in the 1990s, but it's still a family-run business.
The menu comprises more than pastas, homemade sauces, made-to-order pizza and a few seafood dishes. One of the specials on my visit was kangaroo. Also, Rocco's is noted for its Wednesday night prime rib special - perhaps as much for the cost ($12.95) as for the tender beef. Alas, I wasn't there in mid-week.
I stuck to the standards. When done right, they never go out of style.
Our friendly, knowledgeable server answered our questions with authority, humor and honesty. He said he thought the kangaroo was a bit gamey. Asked whether the veal parmigiano ($20.35) was lightly breaded, he said not really. So we queried him about his favorites. Without hesitation, he said the cannelloni ($18.35).
He gave a detailed explanation of what sets Rocco's version apart from others. Ground veal and spinach are wrapped in pasta similar to manicotti, not crepes. Also, three sauces are used: marinara, Alfredo and garden marinara. I was hooked. The baked entree contained a few surprises, including sliced green olives and caper, which imparted a tart element to the rich sauces. I still think I prefer béchamel to Alfredo; nonetheless, I liked the dish. A lot.
We started with Caprese salad ($8.95). Thick slices of creamy mozzarella and tomatoes topped with fresh basil and balsamic drizzle is a taste of summer. Alas, here's where our waiter's decline began. He neglected to bring small plates.
Most main courses come with a choice of minestrone or salad. I knew the soup was house made, but I went with the greens because a heavy meal was in my future.
It wasn't as weighty as the "Ultimate Slab" of five-cheese lasagna ($18.35), though. This is a brick-like serving of the Italian favorite. It was dense with multiple layers of noodles, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, Romano and Parmesan cheeses. As our waiter noted, "It's something you have for dinner tonight and for lunch the next day because there will be leftovers." He was right, and it rewarmed nicely.
The lasagna is served with a choice of house-made Italian sausage, a meatball or both. The sausage is not spicy. Instead, it relies on the flavor of the pork and fennel.
As attentive as our waiter was before we ordered, his focus waned. It wasn't just letting us enjoy the food; it felt as if he lost interest. We were able to wave him over for a to-go box and to learn about desserts.
He noted that the tiramisu ($7.25) is popular even though it isn't made on site. His description of the ladyfingers soaked in coffee with layers of mascarpone and whipped cream was on the money.
I'd like to try some of the non-traditional Italian offerings, such as the prime rib, but I need to give more thought to the kangaroo. Meanwhile, I've got a song about amore stuck in my head.
Address: 3802 Maizeland Road
Contact: 574-1426; roccoscolorado.com/home.
Restaurant character: Family-friendly but quasi-romantic Italian trattoria
Rating total: 3.91 out of 5 forks
Food: 4 out of 5 forks
Ambiance: 4 out of 5 forks
Service: 3.75 out of 5 forks
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday
Entrees: $12.95 to $20.35
Credit cards: Yes
Vegan options: Yes
Outdoor dining: No
Gluten-free options: Yes
What's online as of Aug. 30:
6.7 votes out of 10 based on 44 votes on Foursquare
4 out of 5 stars based on 94 reviews on TripAdvisor
3.4 out of 5 rating based on 86 votes on Zomato
3 out of 5 stars based on 45 reviews on Yelp
Active on Facebook
No violations noted by El Paso County Public Health.