Uncle Rocky's Famous Italian Sausage Sandwich by Chef Charles Knight

Uncle Rocky's Famous Italian Sausage Sandwich by Chef Charles Knight

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ROCKY’S BAR & GRILL in the 1950s. 

Before Franklin School (Rahway, N.J.) built a cafeteria, grammar school kids had to walk home for lunch and back again. For some, it was a 30 to 40 minutes roundtrip. My crew hatched an alternate plan.

One cold fall day in 1956 Richie Crue, Danny Dazet, Joe Fedyk, and me CK (and others from time to time) decided to lunch at Rocky’s Bar & Grill, a mere 5-minute walk from the school.

Back in the day, Rocky had counter service separate from the bar. A swinging door separates the kitchen from the bar. Behind the counter was a small kitchen with a deep fryer, flat grill, and a hand-operated hamburger press used to make the homemade sausage into a patty.

For a quarter, a kid could get a Coke, French fries, and Uncle Rocky’s famous grilled homemade sausage patty sandwich with yellow mustard on a sesame seed bun. For most of the fourth and fifth grade in 1956 and 1957, we looked forward to our daily lunch date with Uncle Rock and I think he did too.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of sixth grade, the school’s new cafeteria opened, and we could no longer leave the school grounds for lunch. Thinking back, I wish we had taken the time to go back and thank Uncle Rock for his time, kindness, and fatherly advice. It meant a lot. Miss you, Uncle Rock! The Crew from Franklin School.

My rendition of Uncle Rocky's Famous Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwich.

EQUIPMENT: mixing bowls, hamburger press, large sauté skillet, 5-quart stockpot or oil core electric skillet, measuring cups, and spoons. 

PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes – makes 10 to 12 servings.


  • 2½ Lbs. ground pork butt, well-marbled
  • ½ cup Chianti for regular or Port for sweet
  • 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons of fennel seeds chopped fine.
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 12 sesame-seed hamburger buns
  • Yellow mustard


In the small mixing bowl rehydrate the dry herbs and spices in wine, for about 30 minutes. In the large mixing bowl combine the ground pork with the herb, spice, and wine mixture add salt, pepper, and orange zest and mix well. Using the hamburger press form into 12 equal size patties.

Preheat the large skillet over medium heat at 275°F for 2 to 3 minutes. Place the sausage patties in the hot, dry pan. To keep the grease from splattering, cover the pan and open the vent or leave the lid ajar, panfry until the sausage patties release easily from the pan, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the patties, cover the pan, and brown on the other side until the patties release easily from the pan, about 2 to 3 minutes.

To serve, place the sausage patties on hamburger buns and top with yellow mustard or serve plain.


For the French Fries; Scrub russet potatoes well. Using the chef’s knife slice the potato in half from top to bottom into 4 or 5 slices. Cut each slice into long fries. One potato should yield 20 to 24 fries or 2 servings. Place the French fries in the large bowl filled with ice water and allow to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. This process will dissolve a good portion of the gritty starch. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Fill the pan half full of pure golden olive oil or vegetable cooking oil and set the temperature on your induction cooker or electric skillet or deep fryer to 375°F. Place the potatoes in the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to drain and allow to rest for about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the fries back in the oil and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bag salt and serve.