Restaurant and market Rocco’s Italian Deli is preparing to bring sub sandwiches and homestyle Italian cooking to Cass Corridor in 2018.
Rocco’s is designed as a full-service Italian deli offering prepared foods such as sandwiches, antipasti, cured meats, artisan cheeses, and specialty grocery items. “We're looking to specialize exclusively in Italian products that are primarily imported but also house made,” co-owner Gabe Guido tells Eater.
Guido grew up in Dearborn and where his family frequented local Italian deli institution Alcamo’s Market and was close friends with the owners. “After moving to Detroit proper eight years ago, we became acutely aware that there wasn't an establishment that offered that sort of experience — a place that fosters familial-like relationships based on shopping for Italian food and eating Italian food,” Guido says. “As a second generation Italian, I've been surrounded by great Italian food my whole life so I sort of felt uniquely positioned to pursue such a venture.” Thus, Rocco’s was born.
Together with friend Kyle Mrkva and uncle Jeff Guido, Gabe began developing a plan for an Italian deli that channeled the old-school charm and flavors from his childhood.
The team pitched Rocco’s during the Hatch Detroit competition in 2014 and earned a spot in the semifinals. While the grand prize ultimately went to Sister Pie that year, the partners have remained diligent in their efforts to bring the deli to life.
In the past three years the partners secured a space next to The HUB Detroit in Midtown at 3627 Cass Ave. and in January received a $50,000 startup grant through Motor City Match. More recently, Rocco’s finally received approvals from the city for its buildout.
The space is designed to seat roughly 30 patrons with a between eight and 12 seats at the bar. The interior design is expected to be relatively sparse and clean with white walls, a stone bar, natural woods, and lots of light. Shelves throughout the market will be well-stocked with imported and specialty items such as pasta, olives, and olive oil.
Customers order from the deli counter beneath sandwich board displays of the daily lists of salumi, cheeses, sandwiches, and sides. Items will be available for dine-in or to-go.
While the menu is still in development, Gabe says that customers can expect to see a meatball sub on the list as well as an Italian sub with mortadella, soppressata, fontina, garlic mayo, chopped lettuce, and a house relish with sweet and spicy peppers, onions, garlic and olive oil. Plenty of vegetarian options such as a sandwich with pears, gorgonzola, and honey are also in the works.
In the evenings, the Rocco’s plans to offer dinner specials such as chicken parmesan or pasta. “So you'll come in and pay a fixed price and you'll eat like you're at your nonna's house, which means you'll eat too much and love every second of it. Otherwise she'll be angry,” Gabe says. Many of the dishes are being pulled from recipes Gabe’s grandmother, a native of southern Italy, used to make.
While they’ve learned that developing a restaurant often requires patience and a few delays, Rocco’s owners are aiming to debut in the early half of 2018.