Focaccia at “Pasticceria Rocco” is a must-eat hidden gem

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A staple in the West Village since the 1970’s, “Pasticceria Rocco” has been passing down old-world traditions into their baked goods for decades before that. This family-owned Italian bakery/ cafe still fills cannolis with their sweet ricotta cream per order, and outputs hundreds of cookies and cakes on a daily basis. Admittedly, I had not set foot into this place in a long time for no better reason than I was getting high and mighty on all of the other more trendy places in the area. It’s a rough area to be an old school Italian bakery in.

I did manage to walk into the place, and had planned on doing a review of some multi-colored biscotti that sat by the front counter, but then something else caught my eye.

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Suspended in mid-air by a cooling rack was a long tray of freshly-made focaccia bread, glowing like a lighthouse in the dark. Don’t fret, trusty reader, I still bought those biscotti, but this review just turned into a focaccia story.

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After being offered a seat and a glass of water, it turned out that I was dining in with my snack. A slice of focaccia costs around $3, and being a crust-lover, I ordered the thickest end piece I could find. Politely served with a knife and fork, I gave up on pleasantries early on and attacked it with my hand-to-mouth Kung Fu style.

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Topped with thick slices of fresh tomatoes and aromatic basil, along with generous slabs of a very fresh mozzarella melted on top. The juiciness of the tomatoes trickled onto the gentle curves of the baked dough bubbles on top, with the saltiness of the cheese merging into a focaccia that tasted like something in a dream.

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Marvel at the crust on this slice, with shiny golden nuggets of oil embedded into the crust to give it a silky texture. It’s a firm and powerful crust that could handle more weight on top and would make for an amazing Sicilian style pizza, if it wanted to be that. It practically already resembled a pizza more than most other focaccia breads that I had seen, and it could easily be repurposed into that, but it somehow kept itself on that thin line between the two Italian fares.

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Inside and out, it’s a gorgeous slice of focaccia with huge flavor that I fell in love with at first sight. It did not disappoint, and as I wrote my notes for this review, I sat there beaming in focaccia bliss and wishing I had another.

There are many Italian bakeries that I go to that offer their versions of pizza or focaccia, and while they usually have excellent dough, it’s the cheese and their weak attempts at sauce that tend to drop it down a few points. However, with Rocco making focaccia instead of pizza and utilizing the great fresh produce that is within blocks of them (chances are the cheese comes from Murray’s directly across the street), all of the elements come together harmoniously into a slice of bread that is not pizza, but is on par with the dozen pizzerias that dot around neighboring streets.

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This was an amazing slice of focaccia that I was not expecting to find in a bakery. I came to Rocco with plans of eating biscotti and tiramisu’s, and I left with pizza breath. Lucky for you, I have had pastries from Rocco before and they are just as great as the focaccia, so that will be a review for another day. For now, get down there and try this baked bread for yourself!

Pasticceria Rocco is located on 243 Bleecker Street between Carmine St. & Leroy St. in downtown Manhattan. Head to their website for more info on them.

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