Rocco's Delicatessen review

Meat and cheese are sliced to order for the sandwiches.
Meat and cheese are sliced to order for the sandwiches. Photo: Jason South

122 Roberts St Yarraville, VIC 3013

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 8am-5.30pm, Sat 8am-1pm
Features Food shop
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9314 6078

There is an art to making a sandwich. Anyone who thinks it's just slapping stuff between bits of bread should come to Rocco's, an Italian deli in the backblocks of Yarraville. Rolls are made to order with care and flair, every element added with judicious attention, like a painter lovingly daubing a canvas.

There's no menu. Regulars – and that's most people here – know to come in, choose a soft roll or crusty ciabatta from one of the baskets on the floor and use tongs to put the roll on the counter. There it will be taken in hand by Louise McQueen or one of her trusty sandwich sidekicks to turn from mere roll into a Rocco Roll, a legendary western suburbs lunch.

Let the ladies decide for you (recommended, they nail it) or create your own combination of antipasto, cheese and meat. Most of the deli goods are made here: roasted capsicum, pickled olives, chunky basil pesto and tomato tapenade, grilled eggplants, maybe some artichokes. The cheese is usually Dutch maasdam and the meats celebrate the pig in prosciutto, capocollo, hot salami, ham and pancetta, a quality selection from Australia, Italy and Spain.

A Rocco Roll with ruffles of prosciutto.
A Rocco Roll with ruffles of prosciutto. Photo: Jason South

You won't be surprised to learn that the quality of all these ingredients is key to the rolls' success. A less obvious factor is the way the cheese and meat are sliced: they're cut to order and shaved very thin. Paper-thin slices allow the cheese and meat to be furled over the vegetable elements, giving each roll such height and lightness that the bread lid fairly floats on the fillings. It's a beautiful thing, a terrific example of the simple turned into the sublime. And this magnificence costs $6.50. Six dollars fifty!

Rocco's has been serving the community since 1977. Founder Rocco Ida still comes into the deli every day but the business is now owned by Christopher McQueen, who bought the deli for his mother, Louise, born Louisa Torresin in San Marco di Treviso in the Veneto. Needless to say, this Italian woman has strong views on good food.

In the two years they've owned Rocco's, they've been building the business – grazing boxes (order ahead) are going great guns, Louise's cannoli fly out the door, and there's a new lunchtime offshoot in Seddon – while maintaining a charmingly old-school operation for customers, many of whom are greeted like friends.

Rocco's cannoli fly out the door.
Rocco's cannoli fly out the door. Photo: Jason South

Most people take their rolls away but you can sit down at one of a few little tables with a copy of the local paper and a chinotto. This is no cafe: they'll stretch to an espresso but you'll need to take your caffe latte desires elsewhere.

I asked for a cup of tea because my English mother-in-law got me into the habit of having a cuppa with a sandwich; the Rocco's ladies scrabbled around for a mug and a teabag and we were sorted.

While I was sitting there, a ringing shop phone was rummaged from beneath a pile of papers ("save two rolls for Gino"), a nonna browsed the deli shelves for continental preserves and an Uber Eats guy came in for a pick-up. It was perfectly imperfect, a blend of nostalgia and now, just like Rocco's itself.

Rocco's grazing boxes are going great guns.
Rocco's grazing boxes are going great guns. Photo: Jason South

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)