Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pizzalicious Meet Up 2009 - Roberta's

Saturday night after the Slice/Serious Eats event at the old Una Pizza Napoletana/new Motorino some pizza bloggers and friends met my sisters and I for pizza at Roberta's in Bushwick Brooklyn. Paulie Gee and Adam Kuban both recommended this joint to me so I knew it would be a great choice.

From the outside in the front Roberta's doesn't look particularly exciting. It was dark when we arrived. The doors and cinder block walls are scrawled with toy graffiti. The textured glass in the front window doesn't allow any hints to what is inside, and above the door hangs a very modest, dark red and yellow sign: "Roberta's." I was still excited when I arrived because I couldn't wait to meet everyone that was going to be there. Just take a look at this guest list:
Inside, Roberta's is definitely something to write home about. My maiden voyage to this Brooklyn spot did not disappoint. When you walk into the joint directly to your right is a shelf of chopped wood for their beautiful red oven, which is directly to your left. The long polished wooden picnic tables are lined up next to the wooden walls with old, mismatched, wooden chairs. Each table has a great view of the oven and pizzaiolos at work.

We waited for our table by the bar in the back of the restaurant. We ordered fancy beers and cocktails served up in Mason jars and chatted about pizza and got to know each other. Next to the bar there is a door leading out to Roberta's very large outdoor dining area. More picnic tables with open umbrellas filled this courtyard and were closed in by several boxcars that had been turned into a radio station. A big window had been installed to one of the cars so you could see a radio show in progress, but alas no one was on the air while we were there.

Around the corner from there is an outdoor bar and and several more tables under a big white tent. The outdoor space was romantic and lowly lit with ropes of lights and other interesting light fixtures. On top of the box cars was a wonderful greenhouse where much of the fresh herbs and produce for the restaurant is grown. We were permitted to climb the steps up there and admire their beds of squash, fennel, basil, thyme and other edible flora in the dark. They even had a few tomato plants left.

Eating outside were several of the owners and friends of the restaurant including Chris Parachini. Mr. Gee introduced me and we talked about their place a little. Parachini told me that when they were getting the restaurant together they didn't want to settle on featuring a specific style of pizza. They wanted to pull what they loved from New York, Neapolitan, Sicilian style pizza and more. Parachini and his friends were sharing beers and a bottle of wine and dug into a beautiful braised pork shoulder over a thick pool of cheese polenta. I'm sure my eyes widened and mouth watered when the waitress brought it to the table because they served me up a taste. I reluctantly shared with Paulie, Maya and Josh. It was delicious. It was so flavorful, juicy and cooked very well. The polenta was also perfectly cooked and added so much to the dish, but could easily be served in a bowl by itself to any good southern girl like me, raised on cheesy grits for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Our table was ready before I knew it and the ten of us sat down to tackle their menu. Honestly I could barely bring myself to look at anything other than pizza. We did manage to order a few antipasti. A tasty cheese plate served with fresh bread, some Hen of the Woods mushrooms, and an order of Coppa Di Testa (headcheese) served with toast and a nice orange mustard were what really stood out to me.

On to Pizza!
There are roughly ten pizzas on the menu at Roberta's and of course you can build your own from their impressive list of toppings. We ordered the entrees and pizzas that struck our fancy and passed them around the table. Two pies really stuck out to me. The Good Girl (kale, taleggio, pork sausage and garlic) and the Cortes (red sauce, chorizo, fresh shaved radish, crema fresca, pickled onion, cilantro and jalapenos). These stuck out to me because they were the most surprising and good example of originality of the pizza menu at Roberta's. I consider myself to be a pretty innovative pizza topper, but easily half of those toppings on just those two pies I have never considered putting on a pizza. I mean, raddish? Really?

The Good Girl was delicious and the pork sausage went so well with the kale. It had kind of a smoky southern flavor. Traditionally kale is cooked with a piece of pork fat in the south. The kale was definitely fresh and the talegio cheese was a nice diversion from the standard mozzarella. There wasn't too much garlic on it either. Kale was such a surprising topping but it really worked on this pie. Rose Ordered a Good Girl with olives instead of sausage, and while she enjoyed it she noted that the fat from the pork cooking in with the kale is probably what really makes this pie so good. Maybe a drizzle of olive oil would do it for the veg version... I don't know.

The pizza that impressed me most was The Cortes. I don't have a lot of experience with pizza and uncooked toppings. This pizza was so surprising and unusual. For this pie red sauce and spicy chorizo was baked on a nice crispy crust with a chewy cornicione and then topped with fresh shaved radish, crema fresca, pickled onion, sprigs of bright green cilantro and sliced jalapenos.

This is a taste sensation that I am not entirely sure I can accurately explain. It was spicy but also tasted so fresh and really clean. Clean is key for describing this pie because you know that spicy sometimes overpowering taste in your mouth after eating, radish, pickles, onions or hot peppers? It was just not there. It was just balanced by the cool crema fresca and fresh cilantro. The pizza was spicy but it was a very flavorful spice, not just heat. The texture of a bite was really delightful because of the warm crust and cool, crisp toppings. It wasn't my favorite pizza ever, but it was so delicious such a good example of their innovative menu.

The ambiance of the place was great, the food was interesting and tasty. The waitress was really sweet and knowledgeable and service in general was totally on point even for our party of 10. Though perhaps the fact that we were all food bloggers might have something to do with that.

I had such a great time getting to know Adam, Kelly, Jen and Paulie and it was awesome to share such a good meal with old and new friends. By the end we all had a bit of a cornicione graveyard building on our plates and when we were all full with good pizza and Paulie and Kelly's lemoncello, we paid our bill, and parted ways. But not before taking a picture of the first annual Pizzalicious Meet Up! Unfortunately none of my pics from the meet up turned out well. Luckily there were several other professional photographers there to help out. Thanks to Dave for the gem below. (L-R Josh Grove, Rose Vincelli, Adam Kuban, Maya Vincelli, Paulie Gee, Lauren Vincelli, Kelly Pizzablogger)

All in all I'd say the Pizzalicious Meet Pp was a great success. I hope that we can all meet up again next year. I hope next year's meet up will be bigger and better!


akuban said...

Thanks for organizing this, Lauren. It was a lot of fun. It was nice to finally meet you and have dinner with you all. And I was glad to get to try the Cortes—and Paulie and Kelly's limoncello.

Paulie Gee said...

You told a very good story very well. No one could have possibly had a better time than me. It's very satisfying to recommend Roberta's. Everyone goes away enamoured with the place.

Aldo said...

Anyone know what type of oven they use at Roberta's? Thanks for any help.

Morta Di Fame said...

I had such a great time meeting everyone and hope to eat more pizzas with ya'll very soon. Great post, Lauren. I had the duck ragu BTW, it was awesome. I will post some photos soon, too. I got a lot of good ones with everyone.

pizzablogger said...

Lauren, great recap of the event....I'm not worthy.

It was a lot of fun meeting everyone and breaking pizza together.

Somehow I missed that Dave was a homebrewing enthisiast....good for him, I would have cornered him and talked over battle stories (I homebrewed for many years).

Thanks for organizing the event and I'm definitely gonna have to come down and have you show me around 8 1/2 and the other Richmond pizza haunts down that way! :)

kamagra said...

Cooked from frozen pizza topped with cheese and tomato sauce, I love to eat pizza, I usually eat pizza as a snack, I know that it is crazy but it is really delicious with soda!!22dd