It was a big first day for Rocco’s Italian Deli. After four years of anticipation, the sandwich shop and market opened for the first time on Tuesday to loads of excited diners. By early afternoon, the spot had managed to sell out of sandwiches and closed early to prep for the next day.
“It’s been a long time coming, so it’s very emotional in a good way,” co-owner Kyle Mrkva says of the opening. He alongside friend and co-founder Gabe Guido began hatching a plan for a neighborhood deli like the ones they grew up with in Dearborn several years ago. Gabe’s uncle Jeff Guido eventually joined in on the project. Through the process, they pitched their idea to Hatch Detroit and also acquired grant funding through Motor City Match to help Rocco’s come to life. “We’re just feeling so proud and so grateful to be able to do it,” he says.
Although Rocco’s is paying homage to old-school Italian delis, the restaurant feels modern and bright with minimalist white walls accented by wood and black metal. Mrkva recalls the first time he walked into the space before signing the lease. “The first time we came in here there were drop ceilings, of course, and it felt very claustrophobic,” he says. Without the panels, the ceilings feel lofty — up to 15-feet high is some spots.
The counter including the deli case and bar stretch across Rocco’s south wall with large wood-framed chalkboards declaring the sandwiches, meats, and cheeses sold by-the-pound. Links of salumi hang from a pulley behind the counter. All together the restaurant seats 25 indoors at two-tops and counter seats and an additional 20 on the patio.
On the menu look out for sandwiches like the Il Rocco, a twist on an Italian cold cut sandwich with hot soppressata, mortadella, fontina, spicy red pepper relish, and garlic-lemon aioli. Another popular item is the Tio Freddo’s Got Serious Beef, which Mrkva describes as the Rocco’s spin on a Chicago Italian beef. The beef is braised for five hours with a mixture of tomato base, beef stock, and pepperoncini giardiniera for added acidity. It’s served with provolone and more giardenera. Rocco’s also has two vegetarian sandwiches, the Mozz and Mozz of Fun and Someone’s Been in the Garden Again. All of the sandwiches are served on rustic Italian breads from Michigan Bread.
The owners brought in Great Lakes Coffee alum Jaysin Urban to oversee the bar and coffee programs. Rocco’s is sourcing its special medium roast beans from Coffeehaus roastery in downtown Detroit. An espresso machine is expected to be installed later this week. On the bar side, customers can expect easy drinking options like Peroni and Two Hearted as well as classic Italian cocktails like negronis.
Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard took a tour of the new Italian deli this week. Take a peek around the space and scope out the menu below.
Rocco’s Italian Deli is located at 3627 Cass Ave.; open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Website.
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