They followed the lead of many Italians who made what was at the time a harrowing oceanic voyage from Naples, Italy, to the shores of Ellis Island in New York.
One immigrant couple, Anna and Pietro Sorvino, who left all they ever knew, never dreamed that their great grandson, Peter J. Della Rocca, would one day continue in the footsteps of what would become the family trade.
Armed with a lifetime of practical experience, the Sorvinos settled in Brooklyn in 1894 and did what they knew best — cooking and serving Italian food in their own restaurants.
Today, with the recent opening of his fourth restaurant, Parmesan Pete’s Italian Kitchen, in Naples, Della Rocca continues the “Italian tradition of good taste” started by his great-grandparents.
Describing his cuisine simply as “genuine, rustic, homemade Italian food with a contemporary twist,” Della Rocca said he likes to reconstruct the traditional ways of preparing food and make it exciting by changing ingredients as he does with the standard mozzarella in carrozza appetizer.
“While mozzarella is usually used, I use panko-breaded Fontina cheese and ciabatta bread and fry it to a nice golden brown crisp and serve it with both a tomato and an anchovy brown sauce. It’s different and it tastes fantastic,” he said.
Della Rocca refers to his restaurant as a “sauce house” with three basic sauces. The marinara is prepared with garlic and oil; the gravy, a sweeter sauce made with onions and pork; and a meat sauce made with root vegetables such as carrots are always simmering in big pots ready to be used as the foundation for his house-made dishes.
If dining in is your preference, enter Parmesan Pete’s through an arbor festooned with thick green foliage. A few outdoor tables beckon the hungry to enjoy the temperate winter weather or opt to dine indoors where seating for 50 awaits.
The warmly colored tiled walls and table dressings in shades of beige and brown complement the aroma of garlic-infused authentic Italian dishes wafting from the busy kitchen.
Testifying to the authenticity of the cuisine and Della Rocca’s heritage, one wall bears witness to the four generations of the family whose roots are in the business of making and serving fine Italian cuisine.
Huge poster-sized photos of the family, including one of Della Rocco’s father with Frank Sinatra, confirm the claim that this family knows food.
If you go
Where: 7935 Airport-Pulling Road, Fountain Park, North Naples
When: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays (lunch); 4:30 p.m. to close Mondays-Sundays (dinner)
Prices: $10-$12 entrees; $10-$16 pizzas (lunch); $7-$13 appetizers; $13-$18 entrees (dinner)
Information: 239-992-3663 or www.parmesanpetes.com
Start with a cocktail at the bar that seats a half dozen and enjoy happy hour pricing every day from 4:30 to 6 p.m. with draft beer and house wines by the glass at half price, and prepare your palette for dinner.
Order starters ($7-$13) such as fried calamari, mussels bianca or baked clams oreganata or one of seven salads ($6-$8) like the arugula salad with pecans, crisp thin-sliced apples, prosciutto and sliced roasted pork tenderloin finished with a raspberry vinaigrette.
Entrees ($15-$17; veal at market price) are served with Pete’s selected vegetable and potato or side of pasta with tomato sauce (add side house salad for $1.50). Select from shrimp, eggplant, sausage or chicken Parmesan, chicken Marsala or scarpariello to sirloin pizzaiolo.
Pastas ($13-$18) include such traditional Italian fare such as cavatelli and broccoli, pappardelle carbonara, rigatoni with broccoli di rabe and linguini fra diavolo.
Finish your repast with cappuccino or espresso paired with Parmesan Pete’s dessert menu ($3.50-$12) that offers crème brûlée and cannolis to New York style cheesecake.
Poised to fill the need for Italian done right, Della Rocca is focusing his latest venture on delivering the best in Italian takeout cuisine prepared with his Brooklyn-style chops.
Parmesan Pete’s is offering its “$35 Wine & Dine at Home” deal. Order $35 from the takeout menu and get a free bottle of red or white house wine, the same wine served in the restaurant, valued at $20.
In addition to specialty rolls such as Stromboli and calzones ($9-$10), popular takeout choices included pastas ($10-$15) and entrees ($12-$14) and pizza.
The cooked-just-right 12-inch or 16-inch discs ($10-$13) are made New York-style with a crisp, thin crust topped with house tomato sauce and finished with basil oil and Parmesan cheese.
Add traditional toppings ($1 each) such as peppers, onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, garlic, eggplant, olives, anchovies, ham, meatball, sausage, cherry pepper, broccoli or extra cheese. Specialty toppings ($2 each) include artichokes, roasted peppers, bacon, fresh spinach, ricotta, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, broccoli raab, chicken or sun-dried tomatoes. For $3, add prosciutto or shrimp.
Special pies are priced from $12 to $16 for the Margarita (mozzarella, tomato and garlic with basil oil drizzle), $14 to $18 for the white pie (ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and sautéed spinach) and $16 to $20 for the signature pie alla Pete (ricotta, mozzarella, Gorgonzola, topped with arugula, sun-dried tomato and balsamic drizzle).
Promising “A Big Bite of Brooklyn,” Della Rocca invites all to come in and dine or try his takeout meal deal and rustic pizza.
PETER DELLA ROCCA'S SHRIMP FRA DIAVALO OVER LINGUINI
1/2 lb. linguini
10 large shrimp
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup clam juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Cook linguini and keep warm.
2 Heat oil and garlic in sauté pan until the garlic browns.
3 Add shrimp and cook for one minute, turning.
4 Add white wine, then crushed tomatoes, and simmer one minute.
5 Add clam juice, butter and oregano, salt, pepper to taste.
6 Simmer until the shrimp are translucent.
7 Place the cooked linguini in plates, place shrimp over the pasta and spoon sauce over all.