The Story of Esposito’s New York Style Italian Ristorante


The Esposito story started in 1908 when Grandma Carmine immigrated from Formia, Italy to Ellis Island as a young girl. Grandma gave birth to 10 sons and 3 daughters and from there the Italian/ American Esposito family tree began to bloom. One generation later Grandma Chivadella (Chick for short) gave birth to a restless, ambitious boy named Pat in Jersey City, New Jersey. Pat, better known as Rocky, always had a passion for Italian cuisine learning the art in his Grandmother’s kitchen. At the age of 22 and fresh out of the service Rocky went across the Hudson into the city that makes dreams come true, New York, to continue his education into the culinary arts. He obtained a job right in NYC “Little Italy” section off of Mulberry Street and mentored under his boss, Italian born John Roselli, better known as “The Old Man.” After 6 months of working and studying under “The Old Man” Rocky decided it was time to open his own place. Rocky bought his first restaurant for $10,000 on Ridge Road in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. He operated the restaurant with his Uncle Jerry and they named the place Jer-Rocco’s. Uncle Jerry, as many in the Esposito family, have owned and successfully operated Italian restaurants dating back to the 70’s. However, Rocky’s restaurants were always the family’s point of pride. Rocky opened his 2nd restaurant in Nutley, New Jersey named Rocky’s Italian Restaurant and Bar. He operated both of them until 1978 when he and his wife Elaine decided they had enough of the Jersey winters and moved the family to South Florida.

After being in Florida for 6 months Rocky opened up Varsalona’s Italian restaurant. Shortly after Varsalona’s he opened up Il Villagio on North Federal Highway in Hollywood, Florida. Both were busy and a success. In 1982 Rocky and Elaine gave birth to their first son, Paul Rocco, and Rocky sold his restaurants to be around and help raise their only son. In 1987, opportunity came knocking in Marietta, Ga, a fast growing suburb northwest of Atlanta and a new chapter began. In 1988 Rocky opened up Varsalona’s Italian restaurant off of Cobb Pkwy in Marietta, Ga. From here Rocky really began to spread his wings and with an abundance of extra revenue he began opening one business after another. From a rock n roll bar named Kings Head Pub off of Franklin Rd. to a country western bar in Douglasville, Ga named The Yellow Rose this poverty born Jersey City dreamer was on a roll. In 1995 Chef Rocky opened up Bella Napoli Italian Restaurante. The following year he opened up the first of 3 Frankie’s Italian Restaurant locations throughout the Atlanta metro. Paul, now 13 years old, started working weekends in his father’s restaurants.

Eating at any of the 3 Frankie’s locations, although large enough to sit 200 guests, had a homey feel; much like eating at Grandma’s table. The dining room and bar area was loud, jovial, and a place where local politicians rubbed elbows with Little League coaches. Frankie Blue Eyes (Sinatra) blared over the speakers and the smell of olive oil and roasted garlic roamed throughout the air. Rocky played host to celebrities like John McEnroe, Deion Sanders, and Tommy Lasorda. However, Frankie’s nor Bella Napoli were posh or pretentious. From a Friday “Pizza Night” with the family to a $200 dollar date night Frankie’s and Bella Napoli were perfect for diners of all occasions. Choosing from old school classics like lasagna and chicken parmigiana to dishes of veal scallopini and fresh seafood or lobster Chef Rocky’s diners never got tired of their choices.

After 10 successful years Rocky sold Frankie’s in 2005. 11 years later Frankie’s on Canton Rd. and Frankie’s on Roswell Rd. (both in Marietta) are still open and doing well serving our family recipes. In August of 2006 it was Paul’s turn as Rocky and Paul opened up Vincent’s Italian restaurant at 3412 Barrett Pkwy Marietta, Georgia. For the next 9 years Vincent’s was the go-to for West Cobb residents. Vincent’s reminded the fast growing northeast/rust belt population of the ethnic enclave “Little Italy” restaurants they were used to back home. Vincent’s was yet another slice of Jersey Heaven for the residents that wanted more than your typical chain restaurant.

Rocky and Paul have too much pride in Italian food, and being Italian in general, to use anything but the best and freshest ingredients. From milk-fed veal to fresh Mediterranean mussels our customers can taste the difference….heck we even had customers finding pearls in our mussels, Yes they are that fresh! They believe in being a part of the community, the local high school, and they are on first name basis with many of their customers. Rocky and Paul make a great old school meets new school team. Rocky with experience from over 20 businesses and Paulie the fresh idea man hip to the millennials wants. This is where a perfect harmony of traditional dishes like chicken parmigiana, lasagna and fried calamari meet dishes with truffle oils, pasta’s stuffed with a pear puree, and gooey fried goat cheese fritters. However, one item needs never to evolve, because when it’s good…it’s really good and Chef Rocky makes the best. It’s something as traditional and, at this point American, as John Wayne or The Rolling Stones….a good NY Pizza.

Rocky has always believed in using New York water to make his pizza dough and it really does make a difference (it’s the high mineral content.) Furthermore, Rocky and Paul only use the best tomatoes stamped “San Marzano” straight from Italy and the finest whole milk mozzarella “Grande” from Wisconsin. The pie is cooked in a stone oven just as you would see throughout New York/New Jersey. It folds, it drips a bit (that’s from the high butterfat content of the cheese) the tomatoes are simple and sweet, and it’s delicious. Yes, its true pizza was invited in Naples, but we believe it was perfected in New York. Who better to trust with your pie than Italian/Americans who still have family in Naples, have visited, eaten, and studied the pizza in Naples, and who have fused together the best of ingredients (i.e. San Marzano tomatoes and New York pizza dough) to bring the worlds together! Rocky and Paul have a large side of the Esposito family that still lives in Formia, Italy (just outside of Naples.) Some of the cousins come over to New Jersey for the annual Esposito family picnic and Rocky and Paul have close ties with their Neapolitan cousins. The family picnic has been running for 49 consecutive years now and anywhere from 150-200 family members attend. As Italian/ Americans we obviously believe strongly in family, and we invite our guests to the table, as if it was a table in our home, to share memories with their own family and to be a part of ours!