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Things to Do in South Bend

Maija Gustin | Monday, January 30, 2012

All of you have probably heard of Rocco’s. Nearly all of you have seen it’s beautiful visage driving down South Bend Ave. Several of you have likely sat down for a meal in the cozy family-owned local establishment.

Rocco’s is a restaurant, but it is so much more.

A South Bend tradition, this local Italian restaurant appears an unassuming hole in the wall, but packs a culinary punch at the table.

February is cold in South Bend. Really cold. On occasion, it may even be so cold that the extent of your “going out” can only be a quick trip somewhere before the sun drops and the city reaches its seemingly sub-zero temperatures.

On nights like these, there is simply nothing better than some comfort food before settling in for a night of watching movies, playing cards and other forms of winter activities.

There are a myriad of culinary options for these occasions in South Bend, several featuring that oh-so-special Italian delicacy, pizza. While Papa John’s might be the taste of the evening one night and Gino’s East the only option another, there is one old faithful that should always be in the list, because the pizza will never disappoint.

Rocco’s is that place. Rocco’s pizza is, quite simply, a perfect combination of delicious crust, faultless sauce and all the toppings you could need.

Put all arguments of Chicago vs. New York, crust type and toppings aside. Even the simple cheese pizza at Rocco’s takes one back to the carefree days of middle school when happiness could be spelled with pizza, ice cream and a movie.

Ravenously hungry or not, it is nearly impossible to imagine not wanting to devour the pizza in front of you.

Rocco’s is known for Italian fare in general, and the plates floating about the room on the arms of limber servers looked and smelled as good as the pizza.

The best part of Rocco’s,

after the food, is the atmosphere. The restaurant is cozy with warm lighting, comfortable booths and Notre Dame and South Bend memorabilia lining the walls. Look over one shoulder to see a painting of the Golden Dome; over the other, find an Italian-style mural to set the culinary mood.

Behind the counter, photos of old community baseball teams sponsored by Rocco’s and Notre Dame paraphernalia make an impressive tribute to the South Bend community.

A night out at Rocco’s is simple — the friendly restaurant staff will lead you to a table (though don’t be surprised by a wait during peak hours), the service will be prompt and attentive but never in-your-face and the food will, simply, please all the senses.

In the midst of a hectic schedule of classes, papers, tests and extracurriculars, sometimes it’s nice to just get away from it all for an hour and eat something that feels somehow like it popped out of kitchen oven.

Rocco’s does just that, creating a homey and relaxing

atmosphere, but serving food far better than anything that ever came out of my kitchen.

That is why Rocco’s is a South Bend landmark — it is a family-owned business that has stood the test of time due to its decidedly familial and homey atmosphere.

Be a part of South Bend tradition, and in doing so, be a part of South Bend as a whole.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Maija Gustin at

mgustin@nd.edu