“Pizza Di Rocco is born from the spirit of Master Pizzaiolo Rocco.” PIZZA Di ROCCO
I did a quick straw poll of two of my family members to find out what they would choose if they could have one last meal. The other half opted for a good old British roast lamb dinner with all the trimmings and the teenager also went that way but with the more specific roast chicken with stuffing and a Yorkshire pudding. I bet you are confused as to why I was asking or maybe you just don’t care but mine would be pizza, yes I know pizza but what can I say, I LOVE PIZZA (closely followed by a veggie pub roast not going to lie). Not your standard delivery pizza or the shop bought variety either but a proper Italian style Neapolitan-style pizza. Although I have had nice pizza in Abu Dhabi the best so far was from a visiting British food truck, Pizza Pilgrims as part of the Street Food Festival but that was until I went to Pizza Di Rocco.
This quirky little rustic Italian trattoria is tucked away off the beaten track, as in not located in a swanky hotel or a shopping mall and you would not stumble upon it by chance. It was recommended to me by a local respected food blogger and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was awesome. When I told the teenager where we were going she exclaimed ‘I love Pizza di Rocco, I have it all the time delivered to my friend’s house in the city‘ (she even had it delivered while we were eating in the restaurant) and it’s the delivery side of the business that has earned this little gem its reputation for making some of the best pizzas in the city and that in turn has brought loyal customers in their masses.
There is nothing ostentatious about Pizza di Rocco itself, it’s just a simple intimate little restaurant with a lovely nod to Italy in its traditional style decor, from Italian themed plates lining the walls to gentle music playing in the background all of which add to the overall ambiance. While the restaurant has a relaxed vibe, the serious business happens in the open kitchen and it’s all about baking fabulous fresh and authentic Italian pizza served piping hot from its Cupola Wood oven. So Pizza is just pizza right? No, it really isn’t, these pizzas are made from the best hand tossed dough, topped with fresh classic Rocco tomato sauce, delicious cheeses, Italian herbs and a wide selection of toppings and the best thing, the one-sized light and crispy base comes in whole-wheat as well as the standard white variety.
Joined by friends who have experienced the takeaway service but never eaten in, we opted for a range of traditional antipasti as recommended by our friendly waitress including their best-selling Insalata Di Rocco, a combination of mixed Italian greens, olives, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, oven-cooked goat’s cheese (one of my faves), mushrooms, walnuts and pine nuts topped with a sweet balsamic dressing, delizioso! I ordered my favourite Italian starter Insalata Caprese and I was not disappointed with the flavoursome layers of fresh buffalo mozzarella, juicy vine tomatoes, fresh basil all drizzled with olive oil. The other half ordered the tasty home-made ripe plum Tomato and Basil soup that was given extra flavour with mixed garden legume and which he wolfed it down as fast as the temperature would allow him to. We also had the Classic Caesar salad of roast chicken, romaine lettuce, olives, parmesan, boiled egg, baked croutons and Caesar dressing.
Next up was the pizza course and having heard so many good things about it I was excited. The choice of nineteen gourmet pizzas are split into two categories on the menu, Classico and Speciali Di Rocco, the restaurants own unique creations and combinations. Again our waitress was most helpful and we choose a selection of three of the whole-wheat pizzas to share amongst us all. I opted for the Classic Quattro Formaggi and the Pollo Piccante and Fattoria were selected from the special selection. The piping hot pizzas arrived engulfing us in the most amazing aroma that had us all salivating and keen to tuck in immediately. The Quattro Formaggi combines creamy mozzarella, strong flavoured crumbly and nutty gorgonzola, almost fruity emmental and some rich, sharp parmesan, it really was a taste sensation in every bite. Pollo Piccante is perfect for those meat-eaters who like a bit of spice, pairing roast chicken with jalapeños, sliced onion, oregano and chilli flakes. The Fattoria is a tasty blend of creamy mozzarella, sweet caramelised onions, sun-dried tomatoes, zingy pesto, roast pine nuts and goats cheese quite unusual, almost sweet and savoury all at the same time and something I’ve never had before but I would definitely have again. Everything lived up to expectations from the light and crispy base to the perfect amount of toppings, just perfect.
You can also ‘create your own pizza’ from a choice of thirty-six toppings of meat, cheese, fresh vegetables, herbs and specials but fear not if pizza is not your thing as Pizza di Rocco also offers the ‘create your own salad’ option as well as Lasagna Al Forno (meat) and Lasagna Verdure (vegetarian) see full menu online here. Self-indulgence or should that be overindulgence, reigned to the end because even though we were all full to bursting we ordered a round of Lavazza coffees and two of the delightful Italian desserts to share. The chef’s special home-made Tiramisu was a layered vision of light and creamy coffee-flavoured heaven with just the right amount of mascarpone cheese and espresso, so light I think it must have been calorie free. The traditional and classic homestyle Tuscan dessert Torta Della Nonna aka ‘Grandmother’s Tart’ was a rich and sweet short crust pastry pie filled with Italian custard and topped with toasted almonds, stupefacente!
The Pizza di Rocco story is an interesting one. British/Lebanese expat and now entrepreneur Peter Samaha left his native Surrey and moved to Abu Dhabi via his corporate financial investment day job (incidentally he still works in that field) but by night/weekends he is master of his own pizza universe. He has realised his Italian dream and he and his hardworking team from the chefs, the servers to the delivery boys are literally taking the capital by storm, one tasty bite at a time. It’s all in the attention to detail and the passion in his product that produces fabulous and mouth-watering tasty food. In a city awash with every possible cuisine on every corner, reputation and repeat business is very important.
What more can I say? The quality and freshness of the locally sourced ingredients shine through in every single mouthful, the menu is full of delectable homemade fare made right there on the premises, it really is as simple as that. Everything I ate was so delicious and the service was attentive but not intrusive which is always just the right mix. Grazie Peter and Pizza di Rocco for your hospitality, I enjoyed everything about my experience and the leftovers the next day too that I had to fight the teenager for, until we settled on half each. Great news for all those who live off island like ourselves, Pizza di Rocco is opening a second branch at Etihad Plaza, so we too can enjoy the well priced taste of Italy delivered fresh to our homes just like the city dwellers. Fantastico!!
PIZZA Di ROCCO
Location: Sheikh Zayed Street, Tourist Club Area, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 641 8300
Opening Times: Sunday – Saturday 10:00am – 12:00am
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram – Pizza di Rocco
Pizza Di Rocco is available for delivery in the city area of Abu Dhabi and their mobile wood-fired oven can be booked for catering for private events and parties.
I was invited to review this restaurant but all the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.