MELBOURNE | Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca is a restaurant born from lockdown, that’s offering some of the most delicious, fun times in Fitzroy. Housed in the space that was formerly home to excellent Italian restaurant Basta, which unfortunately fell victim to lockdowns, Rocco’s keeps the Italian spirit alive.
It’s from owners Emilio Scalzo and Zoë Rubino, and head chef Josh Fry, the team behind nearby Poodle, and began life as a sandwich pop-up that they ran during Melbourne’s first long lockdown, while fitting out the space, and planning for, Poodle’s opening. Poodle opened, lockdowns kept happening, and Rocco’s continued to evolve. When the Basta space presented itself, the decision was made to turn Rocco’s into a permanent restaurant.
The general layout remains much the same as Basta, with the long bar and booths defining the front, an open kitchen surrounded by stools in the rear, outdoor courtyard, and more dining upstairs. The energy has been stepped up, with the chill vibes of Basta replaced with a 1980s Italo-disco house party atmosphere. “Loose Italian Trattoria” is how the owners describe it, and it works.
While you’re bopping your head to the awesome tunes, and browsing the menu, you’re going to find that despite the menu being quite small, you want it all. It’s food that the staff would want to eat after a night out or a big shift. Fun, hearty things that don’t take themselves too seriously. By day, it’s all about sandwiches, in particular the famed meatball sub and continental roll.
At night, when I visited, it’s an assortment of heavier dishes and share plates. Vitello tonnato is sliced bacon-like veal tongue served in a creamy, tuna sauce and is irresistible. So to, the braised cuttlefish with fregola sarda and fennel. Spaghetti and meatballs feature big, moist meatballs, and a bold tomato based sauce. Garlic bread, taken to the next level with flecks of bone marrow, is a must.
After 10pm, it’s things like the meatball sub, fried bologna and tongue sandwich, and offal with Chinese doughnuts, for a perfect post session feed.
To drink, it’s a small wine list filled with interesting and delicious local and Italian wines, with a focus on Italian varietals, classic cocktails, and Italian sodas.
Come hungry, bring your friends, order way more than you can eat, and when you’re full, take the leftovers home for dinner. I can confirm that the spaghetti and meatballs, and garlic bread are very good, and maybe even better, heated up two days later for dinner.
Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca
15 Gertrude Street
Sun, Wed: 12:00pm to 4:00pm
Thu: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Fri – Sat: 12:00pm to 1:00am