The owners of a new Italian restaurant in Manchester hope to share a taste of their family's history with the town.
The rear dining room wall of Rocco G's Italian Kitchen is adorned with family photos — owner Toni Petrocelli said that she still has "many more" to hang. Among them is Fay Angelini, Petrocelli's grandmother from Avellino, Italy.
"She taught me how to cook," Petrocelli said. Without her, the restaurant located at 2114 Route 70 might not exist.
"It's all my grandmother's recipes that we're using," Petrocelli said. "She's the inspiration."
As a child, Petrocelli's father owned restaurants in the Newark area.
"I grew up in the restaurant business," she said. Petrocelli went on to open the Hot Diggity Dogs food truck in Lakewood. Her experience there led the Petrocelli family in February to open Rocco G's in the Hudson City Plaza, nearby the Renaissance community where Toni and her husband call home after moving from Toms River.
"They're a very welcome addition to Manchester," said Mayor Michael Fressola who — along with Petrocelli and her family — cut the ceremonial ribbon to the restaurant on March 26. "It's really mom's homestyle cooking. I've eaten here twice and the food is excellent; the people are friendly."
Petrocelli's sons, Rocco and Gerard are more than the restaurant's namesakes — they help run the eatery.
"It's a family-owned business," Petrocelli said. Other family members, including Petrocelli's other son Anthony and niece Lisa Filep, also chip in.
"Because everything is fresh and made to order, if it's not on our menu and we have the ingredients, we will make it for you," Filep said.
"The gravy we use is what we serve at our house," Gerard Petrocelli said.
"It's good ingredients," his mother added. "It's all homemade."
Opening in winter has been "tough," said Gerard Petrocelli, but things are moving in the right direction, so far.
"We do get business. We have a lot of referrals — 'my neighbor told me to come,'" he said.
As for recommendations, the family said that they are sure to have something for everyone. But, there are some specialties on the menu.
"The Chicken Sorrentino — that's a hot favorite," Toni Petrocelli said. "The penne vodka — out of this world."
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday. For take out or reservations, call 732-941-4806. Alcohol is not served, though patrons are welcome to bring their own bottle. A senior discount of 10 percent is available. An early bird special runs from Sunday to Wednesday between 3 and 5 p.m.