food 06.2.03

Rocco DiSpirito

MUG discovered him.

Back in 1994, Rocco DiSpirito had been cooking for all of five days at his first gig as chef in a restaurant called Annabelle when we first tasted his cooking. And we were the first publication to write about him when we reviewed the restaurant in the September, 1994 print edition of MUG:

"We eat relatively few bad meals in the course of our research — mostly it's a great wash of mediocre — and it's equally rare that we taste real talent. But here we are at Annabelle just days after they've opened their doors and chef Rocco DiSpirito's got us eating out of his hand."

By the next September, he had moved on to the restaurant Dava and we called it "some of the most exciting food in town." And in our September, 1997 issue we wrote about Union Pacific, the restaurant he opened with the strong team behind Rain: "Time has already strengthened Mr. DiSpirito's formidable talent…It's hard to imagine a restaurant that will deliver more pleasure opening this year."

Well, when we're right, we're right.

His new restaurant, Rocco's, 12 E. 22nd [Bway/Park Ave. S.] 212.353.0500, officially opens tonight. As you may have read, the entire process of putting the place together has been filmed for a reality TV show called "The Restaurant", which will air on NBC later this summer. Mark Burnett, who produces "Survivor", is the mastermind here but Mr. DiSpirito's mother, Nicolina, is the secret weapon. She is the executive chef and it is her family recipes on the menu.

Since we had to sign a confidentiality agreement, we can't describe our experience at a preview. It's fair to say, though, that you'll like Mama's cooking and you'll understand where Mr. DiSpirito gets his talent from — the meatball doesn't fall far from the tree. Perhaps Mr. Burnett will be kind enough not to sue us if we say that we especially enjoyed "Mama's meatballs" as well as the baby lamb scottadito.

The cameras will still be rolling for the next couple of weeks, so you may want to plan accordingly, depending on your desire to make your national television debut versus having a meal without roving boom mikes descending at any given moment.

Sample sales and cocktails — now there's a combination we can appreciate. Tomorrow, June 3rd, from 2pm-8pm at Paddy Reilly's, 519 2nd [29th], 17 retailers will have merchandise at up to 70% off retail. Here's what they'll have:

Meredith Strauss silk
Laru undergarments
Rachel Stone jewelry
Lilo undies
Nathan and Moe jewelry
Batch# aromatherapy products
Akua Blu bathing suits
Kipepeo bags and belts
and much more…
Cash and credit cards. No discounts on drinks, though.

From today through June 15th, Harry Zarin Fabric Warehouse, 318 Grand [Orchard] 212.925.6112, is having a big sale: selected tapestries that were $50-$80 a yard are now $10-$25 a yard. Lots of other bargains, too. Su-Th 9-6, Fr 9-5, Sa 10-6.

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