What to order at Rocco's Bologna Discoteca

Published on 26 May 2022

Photo: Rocco's Bologna Discoteca's anchovies two ways.

Rocco’s gained popularity during the pandemic, while the finishing touches were being put on sister venue, Poodle Bar & Bistro. The team decided to house a pop-up kitchen in the space, offering its now-signature meatball subs and fried-bologna sandwiches to take away. Once restrictions eased, owners Josh Fry, Zoë Rubino and Emilio Scalzo determined that Rocco’s deserved a long-term home. 

The Gertrude Street location has been transformed with rich amber-wood details and curtain-covered windows, the two-storey space paying homage to old-world Italian trattorias with cosy booths separated by curtains and a sprawling open kitchen. Outside is a leafy European-inspired courtyard and a bar stocked with a ton of Italian liqueurs. The team wanted the venue to feel fun, warm and like it had been there forever with lots of nods to Nonna’s house.

While the hot Italian sandwiches are a highlight of the daytime menu, the trattoria evening menu includes a variety of Italian classics, such as handmade pasta, bistecca alla Fiorentina and a selection of salumi made in-house, with a new flavour of soft-serve on every week for the sweet tooths. Rocco’s is also running a late-night menu (until 1am) on Fridays and Saturdays where the meatball sub returns and is accompanied by several other hit dishes, including trippa alla Rocco. 

The drinks menu ebbs and flows with the seasons, with the team making a variety of traditional limoncellos, amaro liqueurs, aperitifs and grappas in-house while experimenting with variations of backyard recipes, including green almond and wild fennel amaro, finger lime limoncello, and peach and rosemary grappa, to name just a few. 

Josh Fry is the owner and chef behind Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca and is also head chef of sister restaurant Poodle Bar & Bistro – here he is with what to order at Rocco’s.

How about a drink?
To be honest I’m stoked we offer a long neck of VB (in an ice bucket, of course), which I like to follow with a glass of Franciacorta with some oysters and some baked clams. I’m also loving the 2018 Passopisciaro Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna which goes down a treat with our housemade bigoli and chicken heart Bolognese and some good company. We also have some premium bottles on our Bunga Bunga list which we offer by the glass from the Coravin.

Which of the dishes on your menu best captures the vibe at Rocco’s right now?
For lunch you can't go past the picante bologna sandwich or veal tongue tonnato sandwich. The latter contains crisp veal tongue, capers, pickles and lashings of tuna mayonnaise on a soft potato bun. Of course, our meatball sub is always a winner.

Dinnertime is a lot different to our lunch offering. We’ve focused our menu around our flatbread (best eaten with pesto Modenese) and a selection of seasonal antipasti. Our housemade pastas change daily and are great too: the bigoli with chicken heart Bolognese and parmesan, or gnocchi with purple sprouting broccoli, rocket pesto and ricotta salata. We also bring the crisp tongue back as a plated dish, with caper leaves, watercress and pickled lemon, best eaten with baked Stella Alpina cheese wrapped in a fig leaf.

Our late-night menu sees the return of the meatball sub, too, but my favourite is the braised tripe in tomato with rosemary and heaps of parmesan rind (sliced up to resemble the tripe), served with house-made Chinese doughnuts.  

What if I’m here for a good time not a long time?
I'd suggest our flatbread with pesto Modenese (I’m totally obsessed with this pesto – whipped lard with parmesan and rosemary, how can you go wrong?) Baked clams with fermented bomba butter, crudo of the day (using the best fish from the guys at Two Hands) and a plate of our house-made charcuterie.

Got anything light and fresh?
Oysters with our smoky acqua pazza dressing is a great, light way to start. Anchovies and sardines (white and Cuca anchovies with pickled WA sardines and lemon thyme oil) and Jerusalem artichokes with fermented chilli and stracciatella. I’d finish with a frosty glass of sloe berry granita. 

I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
For lunch we have our eggplant Parmigiana sandwich, and our ever-changing gnocco fritto might just be vegetarian (if you ask nicely). Our eggplant sandwich can be made vegan too. Lunch and dinner we will always have a vegetarian pasta on the specials board. Maybe a pine mushroom baked ziti or a pumpkin mac and cheese. We've also been making vegan pasta shapes that we can whip up if you’re that way inclined. Our antipasti consists of a few vegetarian dishes like marinated Ramarro Farm fairytale eggplants, cime di rapa with parmesan custard or the baked Stella Alpina with fresh and pickled figs.

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
We have these beautiful retired dairy cow club steaks from Coppertree Farms, served with slow roasted garlic, lemon and bagna cuda, which all goes quite nicely with a bottle of 2010 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. 

And to close?
We have close to 25 different amari on our list, which I think is pretty cool. My favourite is the Ruccolino on ice with a slice of lemon. It goes pretty damn well after a soft serve. The flavours change weekly – it could be white balsamic with freeze-dried raspberries, limoncello with torched meringue or whatever we're feeling that week. If you’re after something warm, the zeppoli with amaro butterscotch are delicious. If you're lucky I might even be pouring some of our housemade finger lime limoncello or green almond amaro.

Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca, 15 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, (03) 9046 2000, open Wed noon-3pm; Thu noon-3pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat noon-3pm, 5pm-1am (late-night menu from 10pm); Sun noon-3pm, roccosbologna.com@roccos.bologna

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