The Rumors Are True: Rocco’s — A Wilmington Treasure — Is Changing Ownership

WILMINGTON, MA — Rocco “Chuck” DePasquale, beloved owner of Rocco’s, has confirmed to Wilmington Apple this morning that he is in the process of selling his legendary Wilmington restaurant to successful businessman Jose “Sal” Cuoto, CEO of the Cuoto Management Group, and Portuguese restaurateur Joe Cerqueia, founder and owner of Atasca Restaurant in Kendall Square.

According to the front page article (“Restaurant sale rocks town”) in this week’s Wilmington Town Crier by Editor Emeritus Larz Nelson, the retiring DePasquale believes the new owners will “keep things much the same, with the same employees.” A purchase and sale agreement has already been signed, both for the business and the land.

Sal Cuoto owns the Dunkin’ Donuts, located next to Rocco’s, at 195 Main Street.  In fact, Cuoto, according to his company’s website, owns more than 60 Dunkin’ Donuts across Massachusetts, which employs thousands of people.  Cuoto recently received the Massachusetts Allegiance of Portuguese Speakers ‘Outstanding Business Award.’

Joe Cerqueia is the founder and 20-year owner of the Atasca Restaurant in Cambridge.  According to the business’s website, his restaurant “serves simple, yet traditional lunches and authentic yet, modern dinners.  The inclusive Portuguese dinner and wine menus allow for customers to experience a complete Portuguese meal.”  The site notes he’s a native of Arcos De Valdevez, Portugal, and has been a cooking for more 30 years, working in Portugal, France, Venezuela, and the U.S.

[Updated — 3/23] Salvi Couto, President of the Couto Management Group, wants to assure customers that things at the restaurant will stay the same.

“The Couto family has been a part of the Wilmington community for over 20 years and our Dunkin’ Donuts locations in the area have been locally owned and operated by our family, so we understand the importance of keeping family traditions alive,” said Couto in a statement.  “We are excited to become the new owners of Rocco’s Restaurant beginning this summer and will work alongside Joe Cerqueira, who has many years of restaurant experience, to continue the beloved restaurants’ 75 year-old legacy with the same name, menu, employee base and involvement within the community.”

“We encourage the community to continue to visit Rocco’s and look forward to serving the same delicious Italian dishes and welcoming experience at one of Wilmington’s oldest and most respected restaurants,” Couto said.

Rocco’s is a Wilmington institution, about to celebrate its 75th year in operation.  As the Rocco’s website reads, “Since its opening on July 4, 1940, Rocco’s has been a family tradition, owned and managed by the DePasquale family.  If you are looking for a quality Italian family restaurant, with great food and generous portions, Rocco’s is the place.”

Please email me at with your memories of Rocco’s from the past 75 years and any kind words you’d wish to share with the DePasquale family.

Also feel free to share your comments via Facebook by commenting on this post, or by tweeting using the hashtag #ThankYouRoccos. I will include any comments I receive via email, Facebook and Twitter in a tribute article I’m working on for Sunday.

** NOTE: Wilmington Apple had been hearing the rumors — like many of you — for several weeks.  I chose not to publish anything until they were substantiated by Chuck himself.  I encourage everyone to read Larz Neilson’s great piece in Wilmington’s ‘paper of record.’  I also want to thank Chuck for taking the time to confirm the sale with me. **

2 thoughts

  1. I really enjoyed Rocco’s, and have become a friend of Chuck’s. I wish him and family the best, and thanks for all you’ve done. I have eaten at Ataska’s and can say for sure, Wilmington will continue to have a gem, wonderful Portuguese food. John Havens.

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