By Katie McFadden
Not bad for a place that was once called the Irish Riviera. Rockaway officially has the best pizza in Queens! On Friday, February 10, the Queens Chamber of Commerce announced the winner of their Best Pizza in Queens contest, and the best pie went to none other than Rocco’s of Roc Beach.
A few weeks ago, the Queens Chamber launched a contest, seeking nominations for people’s favorite pizza spots in the borough. It then came down to a public vote, and loyal customers made sure to vote for their favorites. The pizza lovers in Rockaway came out strong. Not only was Rocco’s of Roc Beach (115-10 Rockaway Beach Blvd.) deemed to have the best pizza in Queens for their fresh, coal oven pizza, the second top choice was just around the corner—Pizza D’Amore on Beach 116th Street. And another local spot also made the top 10. Newcomer, Pizza on the Point in Breezy Point, took the ninth spot. Not bad for a contest that featured more than 130 nominees around the borough.
On Friday, the Queens Chamber, an organization meant to support small businesses, gathered local elected officials and local pizza enthusiasts to announce Rocco’s of Roc Beach as the winner. Tom Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, explained how the contest came to be. “I think America’s favorite food is pizza. My colleague, George, said why don’t we do a pizza contest? So, this is our inaugural kickoff for the best of Queens County series. We might do gyros next. Today is all about pizza,” Grech said. “After an exhaustive nomination process and a voting process, I’m very happy to let folks know that Rocco’s of Roc Beach won.”
Joanne Cotrone, co-owner of Rocco’s, was presented a plaque and humbly accepted the honor. “I’m very humbled. My husband and I took a chance. We grew up in the Rockaways, going to the beaches here. We didn’t just show up on Beach 115th and decide to open a restaurant. We are part of this community. We believe in this community, and we took a chance. We are very loyal, humble, thankful and grateful to everyone here and all of our customers. Without our customers, without the people who voted for us, we would not be receiving this award. We’re shocked we were even nominated,” Cotrone said. “We’re only open a year and half, but we believe in our products. Everything here we use is homemade ingredients from Italy. We refuse to sacrifice and put cheaper products in, and I think that’s what really made the difference here. We’re not just a pizzeria, we’re also a restaurant, so for those who are here and have not tasted our food, come back because we really try to give the best to this community, and we really appreciate everything you’ve done for us.”
Councilwoman Joann Ariola was invited to say a few words to the owners. “I was very excited to hear that Rocco’s of Roc Beach won. I know there were dozens of nominations and dozens of votes cast and Rocco’s was named the best pizza in the borough of Queens,” Ariola said. “Now, we already knew the kind of pizza they had here, and this is a hometown boy and girl done good. They took a chance on Rockaway, and it paid off and we cannot thank you enough because we believe in Rockaway, we believe in what Rockaway brings to this borough and you’ve raised the stock here. Thank you to Joanne and your husband and everyone who works here. If you haven’t eaten here, you’re missing out. We have a lot of pizzerias in District 31 and a lot of them were nominated, but you’re the standout and you deserve to be praised and honored.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, who knows a thing or two about pizza, as her husband is the former owner of Elegante, also celebrated this win for Rockaway. “Pizza is like a family business to me, so knowing a pizzeria in Rockaway is taking that honor is truly an honor. You have invested, came to this community, had a vision. You put your feet here and it’s changed the neighborhood,” Pheffer Amato said to the owners. “Good people make good food. The drinks here are fabulous, everyone knows the food. We all talk about it. It’s not shocking to me that you came out number one. In the 23rd District, we have a lot of pizzerias here, but it is the number one food everyone talks about. Thank you for bringing your family and making this a part of the Rockaway family and this great success. We share this with you, we’re going to lift you up and we hope every other business in Rockaway is number one for everything. We know we have the number one beaches and now we have the number one pizzeria.” In addition to the Queens Chamber award, Pheffer Amato presented a proclamation to the Rocco’s owners.
“Rockaway pizza has arrived,” said Robert Intelisano, a financial advisor and pizza aficionado who writes a regular column on Queens pizza joints in conjunction with the Queens Chamber. “I grew up here in Rockaway and it wasn’t known as a food haven. There’s been a transformation, I think it started with Rockaway Taco and foodies started coming and the neighborhood changed a little bit for the positive. We take our pizza seriously and I tip my hat to Rocco’s of Roc Beach. I’m so excited that Rockaway is a foodie scene.”
After the award was announced, all were treated to a buffet spread of various types of pizza and other specialties made by Rocco’s award-winning Chef Bruno Milone. Try it for yourself. Rocco’s, located at 115-10 Rockaway Beach Blvd., is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. For more info, see: www.roccoscoalovenpizza.com