Dispirito, Rocco 1966-

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Dispirito, Rocco 1966-


Born November 19, 1966, in Queens, NY; son of Raffaele and Nicolina DiSpirito; married Natalie David (divorced, 2000). Education:Culinary Institute of America, 1986; Boston University, B.S., 1990. Studied at Jardin de Cynge, Paris, France. Hobbies and other interests: Playing guitar, mountain biking, collecting wine and cookbooks.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Scribner Publicity, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.


Chef. Aujourd'hui, Boston, MA, assistant chef; Adrienne, New York, NY, assistant chef; Lespinasse, New York, chef de partie; Dava Restaurant, New York, founder and executive chef, 1995; Union Pacific, New York, owner and executive chef, 1997-2004; Tuscan, New York, consulting chef, 2003; Rocco's on 22nd, New York, founder and executive chef, 2003-04. Worked as stagiere with notable chefs, including Dominique Cecillon, David Bouley, Charles Palmer, Gilbert Le Coze, and Gray Kunz. Star of television programs including Melting Pot, Food Network, 2000, The Restaurant, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 2003, and Good Life, 2006.


Best New Chef, Food and Wine, 1999; James Beard Foundation nomination, 1999; Sexiest Chef, People, 2002; James Beard Award, 2004, for Flavor; three-star restaurant review, New York Times.


(With Kris Sherer) Flavor, photographs by Henry Leutwyler, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

(With mother, Nicolina DiSpirito, and Nina Lalli)Rocco's Italian-American, photographs by Henry Leutwyler and Bill Bettencourt, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Kris Kurek) Rocco's 5 Minute Flavor, photographs by Henry Leutwyler, Scribner (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to "The Good Life" column, TheStreet.com, 2006.


Chef Rocco DiSpirito grew up in Queens, New York, the son of Italian immigrants who steeped his life in thoughts of food. He began working in restaurants at a very young age, and attended several prestigious cooking academies after high school. After his years of formal training, DiSpirito continued to learn by working with some of the top chefs in the country. In 1995 he opened his own Manhattan restaurant, Dava, which was short-lived. He had greater success, however, with Union Pacific, which he opened in 1997 and for which he received excellent reviews. DiSpirito became well-known enough in the restaurant world that in 2000 he was given a show on the Food Network, The Melting Pot. In 2003, when the chef decided to open a new restaurant, he added a bit of showmanship to the process, turning it into a reality television show for NBC. The Restaurant followed the inception of Rocco's on 22nd St. from DiSpirito obtaining the financing (from famed restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow) through the restaurant's opening and right up to the problems that ultimately would lead to its closing. There were health code violations, patron complaints about the food itself, and even charges of theft from Chodorow.

At the same time he was working on opening Rocco's on 22nd St. and starring in The Restaurant, DiSpirito published his first cookbook. In 2003 he released Flavor, which he wrote with Kris Sherer. The book is "interesting" with a "lively spirit," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer—through which he shared his cooking theories along with the recipes.

DiSpirito followed up Flavor with Rocco's Italian-American, written with his mother, Nicolina DiSpirito, and Nina Lalli. This second cookbook focuses on his 107 Italian background, pairing the story of his mother's Italian upbringing and immigration to America along with a wide variety of recipes from this heritage. A critic writing inPublishers Weekly found Rocco's Italian-American"disappointing," especially in comparison toFlavor, calling the chef's writing "clunky" and his recipes "mundane." However, Booklistcontributor Mark Knoblauch disagreed, stating that the book "amply demonstrates [DiSpirito's] mastery of Italian cooking."

In 2005 DiSpirito released Rocco's 5 Minute Flavor, a cookbook with a gimmick—each recipe can be made within five minutes, contains only five ingredients, and costs no more than five dollars per serving. Knoblauch, again writing inBooklist, observed that while the book has "many ideas for saving time," the recipes also show ways of "maximizing flavors." A California Bookwatch reviewer agreed, calling the book "a real winner."

In an interview with Kathleen Sampey in ADWEEK, DiSpirito commented: "Truth is stranger than fiction. A restaurant is an extraordinary place. It's high pressure, high drama. People let their hair down in restaurants." He continued: "The kitchen of any restaurant is an incredibly structured, disciplined place—almost like a dictatorship. But there's an incredible amount of creative freedom, too, as you get better."



Adweek, July 14, 2003, Kathleen Sampey, "Rocco DiSpirito on the Spot," p. 26.

Booklist, November 1, 2004, Mark Knoblauch, review of Rocco's Italian-American, p. 453; January 1, 2006, Mark Knoblauch, review of Rocco's 5Minute Flavor, p. 42.

California Bookwatch, May, 2006, review of Rocco's 5 Minute Flavor.

Good Housekeeping, September, 2003, Joanne Kaufman, "Seasoned with Love: For This Celebrity Chef and His Mom, Cooking Is a Family Affair. Now They're Serving It Up on Reality TV's The Restaurant," p. 129; December, 2005, review ofRocco's 5-Minute Flavor, p. 57.

Library Journal, December 1, 2005, Christine Bulson, review of Rocco's 5 Minute Flavor, p. 159.

Nation's Restaurant News, April 26, 2004, "DiSpirito Countersuit Keeps Heat on Rocco's," p. 84; October 11, 2004, Erica Duecy, "DiSpirito's Union Pacific to Close; Tourondel Set to Take Over Lease," p. 1.

New York, April 26, 2004, Beth Landman, "Spaghetti Western."

Publishers Weekly, September 1, 2003, review ofFlavor, p. 81; October 11, 2004, review ofRocco's Italian-American, p. 71; October 31, 2005, review of Rocco's 5 Minute Flavor, p. 49.

Restaurant Hospitality, July, 2000, "Rocco on a Roll," interview with DiSpirito, p. 38.


Rocco DiSpirito Home Page,http://www.roccodispirito.com (July 11, 2006).