“Just like Mama used to make” is one of those idioms people abuse, but at this Dyker Heights seafood-centric Italian restaurant, Mom practically wrote the recipe book. One week after opening Rocco's Italian Cafeteria, owner Rocco Bruno faced a nightmare obstacle when his chef unexpectedly quit. His mother stepped in and schooled the kitchen crew, and the rest is history — nearly twenty years of it. Crunchy, greaseless, and sliced into thick rings, the squid earns its place on the neon sign that runs along the top of the restaurant's façade. Dip the pieces into herb-rich marinara or a similar version amped up with chile peppers. A long steam table of antipasti stretches across the length of the dining room. Shuffle down the line and make your decision fast. When things get busy, ordering with a sense of purpose might just get you an extra scoop of marinated octopus salad. Choosing from the rest of the Southern Italian menu yields a treasure trove of red-sauce classics with sides to match, in particular the flawless vegetable sautés. Make a beeline for the restaurant on Fridays, when the cooks transform whole squid into edible taxidermy, stuffing them with seasoned breadcrumbs.
© 2015 Village Voice, LLC, All Rights Reserved