Rocco’s Pizzeria at 4 New Paltz Plaza has branched out into fine dining. When the closing of Radio Shack next door made the space available to a new tenant, pizzeria owner Susan Salanitri decided to open a fine-dining establishment adjacent to the pizza shop, but with an entirely different menu, chef, staff and décor. Currently called Rocco’s Fine Dining & Bar, a change of name is planned for later this year, Salanitri said. Open a few weeks now, the restaurant offers Italian food, specializing in steaks and seafood.
Chef Mark, formerly a longtime La Stazione chef, creates a number of dinner specials each night in addition to menu choices that include Italian classics Chicken Marsala ($18), Chicken Florentine ($19) and Zuppa di Pesce over linguine ($26). Spaghetti Puttanesca ($16) is made with plum tomato sauce, capers, olives, anchovies and basil. Cappelini Mare ($18) is a mélange of sautéed shrimp and chopped clams with grape tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
Hanger steak ($24) and two veal dishes are on the regular menu. Veal Saltimbocca ($22) is stuffed with prosciutto, spinach, provolone cheese and sage. Veal Romana ($21) is sautéed with artichokes and sundried tomatoes in a garlic white-wine sauce. Entrees are served with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetable of the day.
The appetizer list includes fried calamari ($10), savory mushroom cheesecake ($10) and Sicilian-style rice balls of ground beef, peas and mozzarella in tomato sauce ($9).
The décor at Rocco’s Fine Dining is upscale but comfortable, elegant in an understated way. “I wanted to make an affordable place people could come and have a nice dinner, or sit at the bar and enjoy a good glass of wine at a nice place,” says Salanitri, touting the extensive wine list. Happy hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. with specialty cocktails available.
The bar seats ten people comfortably, plus a number of elevated bar tables with tall stools. A stylish cobalt blue light emanating from under the bar adds visual interest.
The dining room seats 86, with booths for four on an elevated platform. A long banquette booth upholstered in dark leatherette seats large parties, and a selection of two-top tables with high-backed upholstered chairs fill the center of the space.
The walls are hung with paintings from the Mark Gruber Gallery, located a few doors down in the New Paltz Plaza. The collaboration works out well for both businesses, notes Salanitri. The restaurant provides additional exhibition space for Gruber’s artists, and the restaurant benefits by the quality of art displayed on its walls. Several paintings have already sold, she says. The plan is to continue exhibiting a rotating selection of works from the gallery at the restaurant.
Raised in New Paltz, Salanitri was the owner of Radiance Day Spa for 33 years before taking over the pizzeria in 2014 without any prior experience in the restaurant business. “My staff is amazing,” she says. “I wouldn’t have done this without knowing they’d be by my side. They’re like family, and the hardest-working people I’ve ever been around.”
As the restaurant grows, Salanitri plans to offer live music, private parties and special events to include “paint ‘n’ sip” experiences. Look for a grand opening in September.
Rocco’s Fine Dining & Bar is open seven days a week at 4 p.m. For more information, call 255-7161.