On Saturday, April 20, in the year of our Lord 2019, hungry Wisconsinites can don a white suit, a white fedora, and/or a fake nose and glasses and get a free slice of Rocky Rococo pizza, no questions asked. Yes, the “Dress Like Rocky” promotion (available at participating locations, natch) will likely go down as the greatest pizza-related stunt since the time Pizza Hut suckered kids into reading old Hardy Boys books for that Book It! thing. Pizza amore, indeed.
There are many ways to prepare for this special day. Breaking out your best Leon Redbone cosplay is an obvious one. Wincing at broad Italian stereotypes is another. But you can also treat yourself to the many musical offerings the fictitious character of Rocky Rococo has blessed us with over the years. And boy oh boy, some of that shit is weird. Let’s explore.
If you’re looking for the Sgt. Pepper of Rocky releases, Kitchen Licks is it. The dapper pizza magnate croons about designer beers and 900 numbers on “90s Kinda Guy,” channels Devo (sort of) on “Strip Mall Love,” and sings the blues on “Left Me Like A Cold Slice (In The Refrigerator Of Your Heart).” It’s nearly a half hour of original Rocky Rococo music—written and conceived by the guy who played Rocky Rococo, Jim Pedersen—and it’s incredible.
(Weeks before Pedersen’s death in 2016, Tone Madison‘s Ben Munson spoke to the longtime spokesman about Kitchen Licks. “I wanted to do a wide range of lyrics that poetically spoke to people who especially live in Wisconsin. Because they know that stuff,” Pedersen pragmatically said.)
Who among us hasn’t experienced a deeply traumatic event due to late-night pizza delivery? Rocky feels your pain in this off-the-shelf blues number from 1994. “Give me a call / ‘Cause I can deliver / Pizza so fresh it can make your little tummy quiver,” sings Rococo on “Delivery Blues.” Also, the footage of Pedersen/Rococo being treated like a king in the streets of ’90s Madison is beautiful and heartbreaking.
ROCKY ROCOCO RAP
Rocky Rococo opened its first location in Madison in 1974. (Saturday’s “Dress Like Rocky” event celebrates the franchise’s 45th anniversary.) Countless musical styles have come and gone since, but give Rococo credit for latching onto the now-dominant hip-hop genre relatively early in the game. And who can resist rhymes like these: “You start out with dough and I don’t mean money / And tomatoes that grow in the sun where it’s sunny.”
According to a surprisingly detailed family history, Rocky Rococo was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1948 to Lillian “Mama” Rococo and Albert “Night Breeze” Rococo. He helped support his family by selling Sicilian pizza by the slice from a street pushcart, but, after 20 years and 347 pairs of shoes, he struck out on his own. He opened his first restaurant in 1974. In 2002, following a 25-year “secret love affair” that his mother disapproved of, Rococo married a woman named Bess Quality. A child, Dinah Mite, popped out of the oven a year later.
Anyway, here’s this great “Cheese Works” song.
ROCKY ROCOCO’S LAST RAP