DiSpirito was born in Queens, New York City, New York. He graduated in 1986 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and in 1990 from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in business. DiSpirito is known for his Italian-Americancuisine and his innovative fusion cooking.
DiSpirito is best known as a celebrity chef and a cookbook author. He is known for his involvement in Union Pacific, a restaurant he opened in 1997 in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan. A year later, New York Times reviewer Ruth Reichl, in an ecstatic three-star review, reported that a woman at the next table was moaning in uncontrollable ecstasy as she ate, but it was impossible to determine what dish had provoked that reaction, since just about every entree was worthy of such moans. DiSpirito departed Union Pacific in 2004.
From 2003 to 2004, DiSpirito starred in the NBC reality television show The Restaurant, which followed the launch and operation of a new Manhattan restaurant called Rocco’s on 22nd. The show was canceled and DiSpirito was successfully sued by the restaurant’s financier Jeffrey Chodorow to have the restaurant shut down and DiSpirito banned from entering the premises.
DiSpirito succeeded Arthur Schwartz as host of Food Talk, an hour-long morning talk show on New York Radio WOR (AM), from October 2004 through December 2005, and then hosted 12 episodes of the TV show Rocco Gets Real on A&E (October 4 through December 27, 2008).
He was also featured in a Lincoln MKX commercial and the ABC sitcom The Knights of Prosperity, and was a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. DiSpirito returned in the Top Chefseason three finale (Top Chef: Miami) — in which three celebrity chefs were brought to work as sous chefs to the contestants, with DiSpirito assisting Hung Huynh — and was a guest judge on the March 14, 2008 Top Chef season four premiere (Top Chef: Chicago). He appeared on NBC‘s The Biggest Loser: Couples (season 5) in an episode that aired on February 5, 2008 (episode 506), in which contestants were challenged to prepare three healthy courses based on DiSpirito’s recipes; DiSpirito judged the food and determined the winning team. The following season he appeared on the second episode (airing September 23, 2008) of The Biggest Loser: Families, taking the “worst” cook of each pair shopping and teaching them to prepare healthy recipes.
DiSpirito was a contestant on season seven of Dancing With The Stars and was paired with professional ballroom dancer Karina Smirnoff. He was eliminated on the October 14, 2008, episode and placed ninth overall.
In 2006, DiSpirito performed a public service announcement for Do Something to promote food drives for schools.
On June 15, 2011, DiSpirito debuted as host of a weekly reality TV cooking competition, titled Rocco’s Dinner Party, on Bravo TV.
DiSpirito hosts the syndicated television program Now Eat This! with Rocco Dispirito, which debuted on September 15, 2012.
In 2013, DiSpirito hosted the Food Network reality show Restaurant Divided, in which he went to struggling restaurants where the owners had two differing visions and then picked which concept would save the restaurant.
On August 20, 2017, DiSpirito appeared on celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Guy’s Grocery Games – Superstar Tournament Part 1, competing against other celebrity chefs for a $40,000 first prize donated to their chosen charity. DiSpirito made it to the finale, and beat out previous tournament winner Iron Chef Alex Guaranschelli.