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Anyway you slice it, Rocky's is good eating

September 11, 2011

By ANNE CHOVEY

Special to The Herald-Mail

My friend, Mack Aroni, loves the pizza at Rocky's New York Pizza on Virginia Avenue, in the Old Orchard shopping center.

I had never been in there, although I do admit to sneaking a couple of bites from the pizzas Mack has left behind. So I decided it was time to make a visit.

I invited Pap Ricka to join me for lunch. We entered the shop through a hallway and went into the restaurant.

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Immediately to the left is a chest-high counter where orders are placed. Behind the counter are the pizza ovens and beyond that is the kitchen.

The menu at Rocky's is huge. There, of course, is the New York-style pizza, which can be purchased in 12-inch, 14-inch, 16-inch and 18-inch sizes ($8.52 to $11.33)and Sicillian thick-crust pizza ($14).

But there is also a long list of specialty pizzas such as barbecue chicken and steak; bacon ranch with bacon, cheddar and ranch dressing; and taco with cheddar cheese, beef, lettuce, tomato, onion and jalapenos. The specialty pizzas come in three sizes: 12-inch ($12.25 to $13.21), 14-inch ($13.75 to $15.57) and 16-inch ($15.25 to $17.45). Strombolis and calzones come in 12-inch and 16-inch sizes and many varieties.

There are lots of hot subs, including many types of steak and cheese, all sorts of Parmesan-style sandwiches (chicken, veal, meatball, eggplant), grilled chicken and a pizza burger. The small is 8-inch ($4.95 to $5.42) and the large is 12-inch ($6 to $6.90). There are also some cold subs and sandwiches as well as a long list of side orders like fried mushrooms, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and bread sticks.

Rocky's also offers Italian dinners served with garlic bread and salad. They include chicken, eggplant, veal Parmesan; spaghetti with marinara or meat sauce; lasagna; ziti and manicotti. Most of the dinners are $8.50 with a few at $10.85.

But just in case you want more choices, there is also a Tex-Mex food menu of quesadilla, fajitas and burritos and salads including antipasto, chef salad or grilled chicken.

Wow! It was hard to choose. Pap and I decided to go for it and then enjoy leftovers.

I ordered a special Italian calzone, which is stuffed with pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, onion and green peppers. Pap got the chicken Parmesan sub. We also ordered a white pizza to take home for dinner. It has chicken, garlic, ricotta cheese and mozzarella.

Once we placed our order we sat down to wait. There are six booths in the front room. An effort had been made to decorate Rocky's as there were stained glass-style wall hangings depicting Italian locations and food. Along the hallway were pictures of family and some large, framed religious posters. Rocky's is a bit battered and worn, but overall the atmosphere reminded me of a college town pizza place: The emphasis is on the pizza not the d├ęcor.

Our food arrived promptly. Pap's chicken- Parm sub was two huge rolls of oozing cheese with bits of chicken and tomato sauce peeking through. He waited a bit before plunging in as they were piping hot.

He cut off a bite for me. The chicken was breaded with a light, spicy coating. It was moist and tender. The tomato sauce was delicious: deep and rich and not too sweet.  The rolls were crispy and stood up to the load of filling piled onto them. Yum.

My calzone was supposed to be a small, but it looked gigantic to me. There was a small hole in the top to let out the steam so the whole crust remained crisp. I cut into it. It had a great combination of flavors, with pepperoni and sausage providing the spice along with the mushrooms and onions. The green peppers were not cooked through so they stayed crunchy, which was a nice contrast to the thick mozzarella and ricotta cheese. There was also a small container of the tomato sauce, which topped it off beautifully.

While we saved most of the pizza for later on, we had to taste it fresh out of the oven. The crust was thin and crispy. The mozzarella and ricotta picked up the garlic flavor. Topping it all was thinly crumbled or sliced pieces of chicken. The chicken was nicely seasoned and as it was so thinly sliced, it had a crisp, almost bacon-like quality to it. I enjoyed a different take on a pizza that didn't use tomato sauce as an essential ingredient.

If you want the taste of a real home-style Italian pizza and not the "one-size fits all" big chain restaurant pizza, check out Rocky's. You will enjoy it.

Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Rocky's New York Pizza

3 (out of 5)

Food: 3 1/2

Service: 2 (restaurant is designed to be self-service)

Ambiance: 2

Value: 3 1/2

Address: 17605 Virginia Ave., Hagerstown

Phone: 301-790-2140

Food:  Pizza, subs and Italian dinners.  There are a number of vegetarian options

Bathrooms: In need of an update. Not handicapped accessible.

Parking and handicapped accessibility:  Parking is available in the shopping center in front of the restaurant. The restaurant is not designed well for wheelchair access.

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