Review: Rocco’s Italian Deli focuses on its specialty

Molly Abraham
Special to The Detroit News

The location is only one of the appealing things about Rocco’s Italian Deli. Nestled in the Wayne State University neighborhood, halfway between downtown and the New Center, the bright new sandwich shop knows exactly what it is doing – and part of it is not trying to do too much.

IL Rocco sandwich, (hot soppressata, mortadella, fontina, spicy red pepper relish and garlic-lemon aioli.)

 It sticks to what the three on-hand proprietors and their staff does well.

The menu contains no also-rans but is focused and concise.  Chalked on the big blackboard menu behind the counter is the list of house specialties: 11 sandwich choices predominantly based on cured and roasted meats and Italian cheeses on crusty Italian rolls, and three salads to balance things out.  That’s it.

There’s also a deli case filled with cured meats, olives and cheeses for those who want to buy ingredients to take home.

The well-designed, high-ceilinged space with white tile walls offers seating at a couple of rows of tables, some perches in the front windows, and a handful of seats at the bar. The bar is perhaps another surprise. It too is focused on select beers, wines and liquors.

The Rocco premise is this: peruse the menu and order before sitting down. The food, served atop paper-lined baskets on metal trays, will be brought out when ready. It’s quick and efficient.

     Sandwiches are all named. There’s the “Mozz and Mozz of Fun,” a vegan selection that includes fresh mozzarella, oven-dried tomato, basil pesto and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the “Little Puzzo Loves his Pork,” slow-roasted pork shoulder, provolone cheese and sauteed broccoli rabe, and “Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball?,” featuring the house beef and pork meatballs.

      Probably the most popular in the early going is “The Breast Chicken Parm.” The cheese-crusted breast comes with the excellent house marinara sauce, from the recipe of Jeff Guido, chef and proprietor, along with his nephew, Gabe, and Gabe’s longtime friend, Kyle Mrvka.

All three are avid cooks.

 While meatballs and chicken Parm might seem to be routine Italian dishes, the quality of the ingredients and the preparation here elevate them out of the routine.

 In addition to all of the above, Rocco’s has a wall of open shelves stocked with imported food products.

Rocco’s Italian Deli

3627 Cass, Detroit

(313) 315-3033

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., bar later. Closed Sun.

Prices:  Sandwiches $7-$14, salads $7-$8

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Beer, wine and a selected list of liquors.

Noise level: Low to moderate

Parking: Attached lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding