Rocco’s Cucina to the Rescue!

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      July 10, 2020

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Rocco’s Cucina to the Rescue!
After selling their legendary pizza restaurant in 2004, the Rocco’s family business is still going strong as Rocco’s Cucina in the Palisades and…they deliver to Topanga!  When Rocco’s in the Canyon closed, Topanga was left with one less cool place to eat and hang out. Within those cozy wood-paneled walls were decades of birthday parties, takeout pizza, meetings and romantic dinners near the wood-burning stove.  Yet, if you still crave the original recipes such as Rocco’s famous pizzas, their savory homemade sauces and salad dressings or Marlene Rocco’s moist and delicious meatballs, don’t despair.  The original Rocco family, the family that opened Rocco’s in the Canyon in 1980, have been going strong at Rocco’s Cucina on Sunset Blvd. and PCH in the Pacific Palisades since 2000.

Rocco’s Cucina in the Palisades

Going in to pick up food at their shop on Sunset Blvd., you see a family in perpetual motion.  There, Marlene is busy making her meatballs and signature Caesar dressing, Frank helps out where he can and their daughter, Kristina Rocco Levy and her husband, Jed Levy, who own and operate the place, put their hearts into the business’ success down to every last detail. In the back, by the ovens and still cooking pizzas as he has since 1985, is their venerable chef, Vidal Arzate, who was trained in all the original recipes by Frank and Marlene. 

Rocco’s Cucina Delivers to Seniors

When the “Safer-at-Home” due to COVID-19 order went into place in early March, it was Rocco’s Cucina that stepped up to deliver much needed food to the Topanga SAGES three times a week.  Understanding the desperate need of seniors who can’t get out to shop, lifelong Topangan and a Topanga Community Club member, Kristina and her family coordinated with the Topanga SAGES to identify those in need and prepare and deliver hot, cooked meals three times a week for the seniors.  The program is completely funded by private donations. If you want to help, please donate to the cause by contacting Kristina at Kroccolevy@gmail.com. “It’s been great, people keep donating now and then. It is not the time to come out,” she said. “People who can stay home should stay home; we will help out in any way.”

Rocco’s Cucina Participates in County’s Meal Giveaway

Taking a page from Rocco Levy’s ongoing dinner delivery program to the Topanga SAGES, Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office, in partnership with the Topanga Community Club (TCC), is starting another program for Topangans. Those facing any kind of food insecurities in the Canyon will have access to prepared meals at the Topanga Library parking area three times per week, on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays beginning on July 13 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The meals will be provided by three restaurants—Rocco’s Cucina, Café 27, and Waterlily Café. Meals will be brought to the Topanga Library parking lot area for pickup and can be picked up for individuals who are homebound, as long as that person’s name is listed on a roster. All individuals who sign up will be provided a meal. Additional meals will be on hand for those who have yet to sign up, but supplies are limited. To receive more information or to sign up, visit www.topangacommunitycenter.org.

The Rocco’s Family

“My mom and dad, Frank and Marlene Rocco, are from the from Bronx—The Grand Concourse: 198th St. and Valentine Avenue—where my dad’s family had a pizzeria” said Kristina. “We came to Topanga in 1978, and my dad was working as a handyman for Joe Gerson, then owner of the Topanga Creek Market. Joe showed my parents the available space that once was the Old Post Office Inn and the dream to open their own Italian restaurant became a reality. Though the inviting hippie vibes and the charm of horses hitched to the posts outside were more than welcoming and made them immediately feel at home, the Old P.O. was a mess. Frank guided the family, and many volunteering friends, through a complete renovation over the next year and a half. “We made the space beautiful, and were finally ready to open, then the flood of February 1980 came” said Marlene. “We had 14 inches of mud on the floor instead of customers. So we had to start over and fix up the restaurant again, We finally opened on September 7, 1980. Karen Woodward (Lexi Pearl’s mom) was our first customer. With our kids waiting tables, Frank and I worked the kitchen; I made the entrées and Frank tossed the pizzas.” From that moment on, Rocco’s in the Canyon was a hit and quickly became a center of activity in the community for decades to come. “Topanga was very good to us,” Marlene said. “The community was always supportive, they were right there with us through thick and thin, up until the day we sold Rocco’s.” “We tried retirement, but Frank got bored and missed the activity of the restaurant, so he offered to help Kristina and Jed at The Cucina,” she continued. “With the school lunch program growing fast, Kristina then asked me to come help out, too.” Now, even the next generation has stepped in to help at one time or another at Rocco’s with Kristina and Jed’s kids—Chaise, 26, Lorenzo, 23, and Lila, 18.  So, if on Monday, Wednesday or Fridays you have a hankering for the original Rocco’s pizza, pasta, salad or garlic rolls just call or text Kristina at (310) 995-1895 by 4 p.m. and she will deliver your delicious food to Pine Tree Circle and you can enjoy a slice of Topanga’s history!  Rocco’s Cucina, 17332 Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, (310) 573 – 3727, http://www.roccospalisades.com


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When Rocco’s in the Canyon closed, Topanga was left with one less cool place to eat and hang out. Yet, if you still...

Posted by The Canyon Chronicle on Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Annemarie Donkin
      July 10, 2020

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