By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Sep 03, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Earlier this summer, Joe Cataldo changed the name and direction of his bar and eatery -- formerly called Cataldo's -- and unveiled Rocco's at 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Rocco's is inside the George Washington Bay View Post 180 of the American Legion. Cataldo rents both the upstairs space -- which is currently empty -- and the basement space where the bar and restaurant are located.

It has a "rec room basement" feel to it that most will find kitschy and pleasing. There are a dozen or so tables and a massive, three-sided bar that features a variety of beers in bottles and on tap. Cataldo, along with the help of Sprecher Brewery's Don Wambach, is in the process of putting together a new list of micro-beers.

"We picked the best micro-beers," says Cataldo. "The ones that make sense."

The menu is classic bar food, including burgers, pizzas, tacos and appetizers ranging from chicken strips to kettle chips to Tater Tots. We were particularly pleased to see the Juicy Lucia burger, a variation on Minnesota's "Jucy Lucy" burger that mixes the cheese into the ground beef.

We sampled a few cans of Guinness and the tater tots, which were perfectly baked: crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They came with a side of signature dipping sauce that Cataldo describes as "ketchup with attitude." (The cook later disclosed there was a splash of bourbon mixed in.)

Prices are very affordable. A burger, for example, is $5.95 and it comes with fries. Rocco's features a variety of specials: Tuesday and Thursday nights offer a pizza and a pitcher of beer for $10; Wednesday nights serve up 35-cent wings, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights feature $2 cans of Pabst.

"I really just want this place to be fun," says Cataldo.

Cataldo opened Jo-Cat's Pub, 1311 E. Brady St., in 1979, and he later opened Cataldo's on Brady Street, which closed in 2001. He remembers working at Jo-Cats fondly.

"I worked every Friday and Saturday night with my two sons," he says. "I was the happiest guy in town."

This fall, Cataldo says he hopes to offer a fish fry and live polka music in the first floor space. He also plans to have Packers' parties every Sunday. Currently, the space features three flat-screen TVs and Cataldo says they will soon get two more. Recently, he put in a new sound system.

"That was always my thing at Jo-Cats," says Cataldo. "Loud music."

Cataldo decided not to have a karaoke night at Rocco's, even though he offered it at both Cataldo's locations.

"We're going for a new image with Rocco's," he says.

Cataldo grew up in the Brady Street area and currently lives with his wife and 2-year-old daughter in the same Astor Street house where he was born.

"My wife calls me Tony Randall," he says, laughing.

So far, the smoking ban has not been a problem for Cataldo. He says he quit smoking a few months ago and the ban helps him stay tobacco-free.

Overall, Rocco's is ready to join the ranks of coveted Bay View bars and restaurants. Although Cataldo wants to change the image of Rocco's in order to appeal to a variety of demographics, he hopefully won't try too hard.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.