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Originally published Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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Rocco's: more than pizza and beer in Belltown

From shrubs to Belgian ales to crispy crust pizza, Rocco's is carving a niche among the late-night crowd in Belltown.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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".....a dirty vodka martini with artichoke juice..", sounds nice, I'll have... MORE

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If you've been to Rocco's, then likely you've been out too late, past 1 a.m. perhaps, a bit hung over, maybe. This pizza-by-the slice joint in Belltown has become the go-to hub for late-night grub.

But you know what? Some decent craft cocktails get served here before midnight, as Rocco's quietly has built a good craft-cocktail program.

The drinks are more spirit-forward than what the regular Belltown bar hoppers are used to — dry and boozy. Many cocktails are takes on the classics: a dirty vodka martini with artichoke juice; a smoky, mescal version of a Rusty Nail.

A section of the menu is dedicated to shrubs, old-school fruity vinegar drinks. Take the raspberry-and-mirabelle-plum shrub, which is served on a tray, along with a shot of whiskey, club soda and a cup with crushed ice.

You want this drink sour? Sweet? You decide. You cobble the ingredients together to your specification.

Sure, it's shtick that only cocktail geeks appreciate. The average Joe may wonder, "I make my own drink? What the heck is the bartender for?"

Hawking craft cocktails has been a tough sell in Belltown, as any veteran bartender can attest. It's still a vodka and candy-cocktail kind of 'hood. And the minority of bar hoppers who want an Old Fashioned or any other kind of classic tend to hit Rob Roy on Second Avenue.

Rocco's debuted in August, with owner Jesus Escobar and bar manager Leroy Thomas bent on building a solid cocktail program and being more than just Belltown's late-night version of Big Mario's in Capitol Hill.

They also have great taste in beer. Rocco's has an impressive list of Belgian ales and craft beers on draft.

Oh, and that pizza? It tends to be cheesy and salty, the crust not so much thin as it is extra crispy. It's excellent hangover food.

The details

Rocco's, 2228 Second Ave., offers $2 off on cocktails ($8 drinks) and $1 off on draft beer. Also $4 well drinks and $20 wine bottles, discounts from noon until 7 p.m. daily (206-448-2625 or www.roccosseattle.com).

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @tanvinhseattle.

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