A faded green-and-red sign points to the no-frills Rocco’s Delicatessen, one of Yarraville’s most popular takeaway lunch spots. It is, first and foremost, a deli – so there’s no official menu here. But devotees know to ask for the made-to-order Rocco Roll, an Italian-inspired sub packed with your choice of antipasti, cheese and sliced-to-order cold cuts.
Each day, up to 14 of staff members form a production line behind the counter, making more than 1000 of these well-loved rolls. First, choose from a ciabatta or Vietnamese baguette before the antipasti are slathered on – think olives, sundried tomato, grilled capsicum and eggplant. From there, you can choose from meats like pancetta, prosciutto, mortadella and chicken (or go for the vegetarian option with pickled zucchini and artichokes). The affordable rolls are generously packed with ingredients, and high turnover means the stock never sits around for long.
Once the lunch rush finishes, elderly locals wander in to stock up on deli items alongside eggs, milk and cream and, perhaps, a coffee by Reverence Coffee Roasters. So too might Rocco Ida, who opened the deli in 1977. In 2016, he sold it to mother-and-son duo Christopher and Louise McQueen, but he still comes in often for coffee and chats.
When the McQueens took over, Louise was nervous that the locals wouldn’t like her recipes. Yet to say that they’ve been embraced is an understatement. The best indicator is the successful occasional special meatball sub, which follows a northern Italian recipe that’s been in Louise’s family for generations. Whenever it hits the menu, it sells out almost instantly through social media orders. Beyond that, other Louise favourites include her jam donuts; cannoli, in flavours like custard and ricotta; and comforting take-home meals of gnocchi and lasagne.