When Rocky Rococo Pizza and Pasta closed in May of 2020, after more than 35 years of serving up their famous square pies and epic salad bar offerings, there was a collective sad sigh from the community. And seeing the space at 520 West Main Street sit vacant was, well, a bit painful.
Then the buzz started to grow as work began on the building, whispers of “I wonder what’s going in?”
Today the space looks vastly different, and best of all, alive and vibrant with a fantastic new addition to the downtown restaurant scene: The New 63 Social House & Eatery.
“Once we saw the character of the building, it was something that we all fell in love with,” said Casey Garland, one of the operating partners for The New 63 and Director of Operations and Development at SA Group of Restaurants, owned by Rakesh Kaushal.
The group’s vision was to create a relaxed, chill atmosphere, a place where you can gather and socialize with friends, order some delicious food, and not have it feel overwhelming or rambunctious.
But to breathe new life into the historic building was no easy feat.
Rocky’s famous salad bar was beyond repair and had to be ripped out, along with all the old tables and chairs. The entire indoor space was repainted, except for the original red-tent ceilings.
Garland and his dad completely transformed Rocky’s ordering station into a fully functioning bar top with all custom woodwork and tiling.
They also revamped the front room, adding couches and armchairs to give it a welcoming, meet-and-gather vibe focused on drinks and socializing.
All in all, it took six months before The New 63 opened in March of 2022.
For Garland, who’s worked in the restaurant industry since age 18, it was well worth it: “Having guests come in and eat and drink and have a good time because of your efforts is pretty rad.”
The name itself pays homage to the building’s history. It was originally called the Ritz Theatre, built in 1924, and later became Cinema 63, going through more transitions until it became Rocky Rococo.
With how beloved Rocky Rococo was to the community, Garland and operating partner Hillary Yarno had big shoes to fill, but so far, the community response has been amazing.
“Our favorite feedback is on the service,” Garland shared. “As operators, it’s something we always like to hear.”
The menu, which pairs Asian fusion with American favorites, slowly took shape as they were working on the building, but it’s not set in stone.
“We wanted a more feedback-driven evolution to the menu, so it’s something we’re constantly working on,” said Garland.
For appetizers, their Korean cream cheese bread is garnering rave reviews, along with their chicken wings featuring sweet, spicy, savory or tangy sauce. For lunch and dinner, you can choose from an intriguing selection of rice and noodle bowls.
If you’re looking to relax with a cocktail, you can’t go wrong with a Brian’s Old Fashioned (named after General Manager Brian Horpel) with a brûléed orange wheel and Bordeaux cherries. Another popular drink is the Japanese 75, which is a play on a French 75, but they use a Japanese strawberry gin and sparkling saké instead of champagne.
Garland is encouraged to see foot traffic downtown getting better every day post-COVID, especially with the warm summer weather here.
The support from other downtown restaurant owners and operators has also been impressive. Rather than a spirit of competition, there’s a focus on the bigger community impact.
“It’s never been a ‘Ooh, here’s someone coming to take our business,’” Garland said. “It’s ‘Welcome to the block.’”
The New 63 is open Sunday–Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to midnight.