THE STORY OF GIOVANNI ROCCO
On the southern coast of Italy in beautiful Calabria the Johnny Rocco's tradition began when Giovanni (Johnny) Rocco was born. He was an active bambino who loved to eat. This curious boy's love for food grew into a passion as he would ask his Mama "come si e fato" how was this made, or what ingredients she used in making her famous sauce you enjoy today in our restaurants...
As Giovanni grew into his teenage years he began to create dishes that would become famous throughout all of Italy. People would travel miles to visit this culinary prodigy and try his now famous Lasagna al Forno, Restaurateurs from all over the world would try to entice him to come and cook for them, but he insisted on staying home with his Mama to learn more about his famiglia's culinary secrets and make them better as only Giovanni could.
As a young chef Giovanni opened his first restaurant in his home town in 1935 creating the tradition of friends are family. He treated every customer as he would his own family. This warm and welcoming atmosphere made him famous and his restaurant flourished.
Giovanni's heart skipped a beat when she walked into his restaurant on a glorious hot summers day. Giusepina (Josephina) was the daughter of a very wealthy purveyor from Palermo. He insisted on personally cooking her order of Pasta Primavera, and stood standing by as she put the first bite in her mouth. He watched with anticipation as she rolled her eyes in delight and despite the full restaurant was the only man she saw when she opened them again. His food brought them together that night, but his passion for life made her fall in love with him... They have been together ever since.
In 1940 as tensions grew, Giovanni made arrangements to get his familigia out of Italy. Leaving his beloved Calabria tortured him and he swore he would someday return to rebuild his family legacy, and the restaurant he worked so hard to create. He joined his uncle in Niagara Falls, Ontario where he cooked for him in his restaurant for 12 years...
It was now 1952 and the economy in Italy was stabilizing. A still young and vibrant man, Giovanni felt that this was a good time to bring his family back and reopen his family restaurant...Many of his friends and family were now gone, but he insisted that he would bring back the traditions that he held so close to his heart during his exile. No small task in this newly changed town that had suffered over the last 12 years.
The building that housed his restaurant was no longer standing, but Giovanni began to cook as he rebuilt it brick by brick as more and more of the familiar faces that he knew as a boy returned to his beautiful Calabria. This reunion of "gli amici sono la famiglia" reenergized him and it did not take long for the word to get out that Giovanni was back in Calabria where his cooking reunited a town, and his legacy was reborn...
When Giovanni passed on his recipes were lost but never forgotten. When his uncles grand children from Canada came to visit they discovered an old shoebox in Giovanni's closet, hidden under a loose floorboard in his restaurant... When they opened the dust covered box the aroma that they remembered from Nono's kitchen came rushing back.When they realized what they had discovered they convinced his wife to let them take them back to Canada where they would recreate his legacy.
Giovanni's tradition of "gli amici sono la famiglia" is now the hallmark of Johnny Rocco's.