Rocco’s Calamari closes after 35 years
Dyker Heights eatery fed celebs like Ben Affleck, Rudy Guiliani
A family-owned Italian restaurant in Dyker Heights that served delicious pasta to everyone from movie stars to moving men has closed its doors for good, the owners announced on Aug. 9.
Rocco and Lucy Bruno opened Rocco’s Calamari at 6408 Fort Hamilton Parkway in 1981.
The Brunos were newlyweds when they first opened their Italian restaurant and watched it grow over the years into a neighborhood staple.
The couple has decided to retire.
The Brunos launched Rocco’s Calamari three decades ago under the guidance of Lucy’s father, the late Anthony Orrichio. Both of their moms, Angela Bruno and Josephine Orrichio, also played major roles in the new culinary venture, according to Lucy’s sister, Camille Loccisano, who said both women rolled up their sleeves and taught the kitchen staff how to make Old World recipes from Southern Italy.
Before long, customers started coming in droves to enjoy an array of rustic, piled-high platters of mouthwatering Italian dishes served each day for lunch and dinner.
Everything was prepared fresh daily with the finest ingredients and age-old cooking techniques that were passed down from the generations, Loccisano said.
Over the years, other relatives, including the couple’s children, worked alongside Rocco in the restaurant.
The customer base was varied and included blue collar workers, business and medical professionals, cops, firefighters, educators and politicians.
The celebrity diners included actors like Ben Affleck, Jimmy Smits, Tony LoBianco and Rosie Perez, politicians like Rudy Guiliani and sports legends like Joe Montana.
But you didn’t have to be a movie star to be treated like royalty at Rocco’s Calamari.
“Grateful is how we feel toward every staff member, every vendor and business associate and most especially every single customer who gave us their patronage,” Lucy Bruno said in a statement. “It’s been an extraordinary way to spend the greater part of one’s lifetime.”
Longtime customer and family friend Anthony M. Giliberti said Rocco’s Calamari was a special place. “When customers went to Rocco’s Calamari, they knew they would bump into at least two acquaintances while enjoying favorite dishes such as chicken spedini or pasta fogioli,” he said in a statement.
Another dedicated customer, James Giamanco, said Rocco Bruno’s dedication to his craft made the eatery stand out.
“Over the years, I cannot recall entering Rocco’s Calamari even once when Rocco was not in attendance, and I believe that is what set the place apart from all the others. He was always there overseeing everything, and his fried calamari was the best of the best. Truly, this is the end of an era,” Giamanco stated.
Rocco and Lucy Bruno considered selling the restaurant to a new owner, but opted instead to sell the building to a developer.
“I won’t miss leaving the house for work at 5 a.m. every morning,” Rocco Bruno said. “But I will miss the people who allowed us the privilege of serving them. We thank them for sharing the long and eventful years, but now it’s time for our family to close the doors and enjoy the next chapter.”