Raise your hand if you know a New Yorker who thinks they've got it all figured out, particularly when it comes to food. Of course, I tease my Yankee friends, especially considering the fact that I am from Miami, which is essentially New York with better beaches. Oh, and prettier ladies and better NBA teams. But I digress.
I don't think it's a stretch to believe that when it comes to Italian food, you're likely to get something special when the person doing the cooking is Italian and hails from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Italian culture is rich in that region. When you know where to find the great food? Fuhgettaboutit.
Bill Vissicchio is one of those guys. He moved to Savannah years ago in a management position with the McDonald's corporation. I first crossed paths with Bill back in the day at a fundraiser, the Chef of the House Challenge for the local Ronald McDonald House. My team against his, and they cleaned my clock. Those are things, however, we don't speak of. Long time ago.
When Bill's run with McDonald's came to an end, I surely thought he'd leave town. He was a New York kinda guy, through and through. A couple of years later, however, I heard he was still here, living in Pooler. He was doing some catering here and there. There and here. Ultimately, he wanted to open up his own Italian joint and dedicate it to his hometown of New York City. Well, Long Island, but those are semantics.
Rocky's NY Deli and Italian Catering is now open in Sandfly. The early returns? As Rocky’s says on its website, “Fuhgettaboutit, Y’all!”
"I really like it here," Bill says of his decision to stay in the area and open a sandwich shop. "The people are so nice. It's just a great place to be."
As you might imagine, the space pays homage to the unique culture of New York City. Photos donated by dozens of friends are framed on the walls. Memory Lane for his beloved New York Mets, as well as pictures reflecting life in the city. "We aren't New York style," the sign on the door proclaims. "We are New York!"
Bagels, breads, even his coffee cups are sourced from New York. Bill tells me he spent months and a couple of trips to the city planning products to deliver as authentic an experience as he possibly can.
The list of 12 to 14 sandwiches written on the chalkboard are all named after something iconic from The Big Apple. Ebbets Field, The Red Hook, Canal Street Station, or The North Shore. Pastrami is being made daily. "I'm having trouble keeping enough to last a full day," he says. Roast beef, same deal. All made in-house and all selling out almost daily.
My go-to for a first visit? "The Vito Spatafore,” featuring a breaded chicken cutlet, soppressata, provolone, roasted red peppers, arugula and red wine vinaigrette on a hero. Yes, a hero. They are not subs; they are not hoagies. At Rocky's, they are heroes.
That sandwich was actually named for the popular character in "The Sopranos" who met his demise toward the series end while shooting pool in Fort Lee, N.J. The recipe was provided by the actor who played Vito, Joseph Gannascoli.
"I found out he was on Facebook, so I sent him a note asking him for an autographed photo for my new restaurant," Bill says. "Twenty minutes later he responded. He said he'd send me the photo but I had to add this sandwich to the menu and call it The Vito." Done deal. The signed photo is hanging on the wall. Oh, and by the way, the sandwich is delicious. And quite large.
Breakfast and lunch are the main attractions at Rocky's, although Bill does offer an extensive catering menu. Italian classics, of course. "The catering has really been picking up," he says. "A lot faster than we thought it would."
Must be good, don't you think? Fuhgettaboutit.
Go see Bill. He's a good fella.
You'll find Rocky's NY Deli at 7360 Skidaway Road, in The Shops at Sandfly a few doors down from Tequila's Town Mexican Restaurant. They are open six days a week until 5 p.m.
See you on TV,