Well, I have to say, the timing was right on this one. Jason Feirman (Remember him?) and I ventured to Bushwick last night to experience the culinary joys of Roberta’s, another of Brooklyn’s reputable pizza joints. Funny enough, the New York Times ran a piece that same day sharing the secrets behind making great pizza dough at home and their recipe of choice came straight from Roberta’s which dining editor Sam Sifton claims is “superlative dough: thin and pliant, tender and chewy, with excellent flavor.”
He’s quite right, and he makes a good point when he says that:
Very little pizza is made at home, from scratch.
I am here to say: You can make pizza at home. You can make pizza at home that will be the equal of some of the best pizzas available on the planet. With a minimal amount of planning and practice, you can get good at it, even if you are a relatively novice cook.
Sure, you can make pizza at home. Not just that, but if you’re well practiced you may even become pretty great at it. However, what you won’t get is the communal experience, the grunge atmosphere and the old school hip hop vibes which, in the case of Roberta’s, are a large part of the appeal. Roberta’s doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, it looks more so like a graffitied garage where band mates practice after-hours without receiving complaints from pissed off neighbors.
As you enter the front room, you immediately feel the comforts equivalent to middle school days when you went to hang out after classes finished in your friend’s basement. Picnic tables host laid back patrons and the staff, along with the fresh tomato sauce aromas, are particularly welcoming.
As Jason and I waited not more than 20 minutes at the back bar (usually it’s closer to an hour plus), we ordered a few beers poured in none other than mason jars, a nod to hipsterdom. Once seated, we reviewed the menu and struggled to narrow it down to just two pies. We finally settled on the Famous Original with tomato, mozzarella, caciocavallo, oregano and chile and the Axl Rosenberg with tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, garlic, jalapeños and mushrooms. No two pies were even close to the same though and Jason informed me the menu is forever shifting based on seasonality. In fact, the reason for the change in menu is thanks to the restaurant’s locally sourced herbs and produce grown as close as their own backyard. The fresh tomatoes and basil don’t go unnoticed and both pies we chose had a bit of a kick to them thanks to the chile and jalapeños I also suspect were grown out back, or in the rooftop garden.
The crust had a charred wood-flavor and each pie had a fiery finish. The Axl Rosenberg in particular suited my taste as I’m always one to reach for the hot sauce. The spice provided the perfect warmth on an otherwise damp night, similar to tasting whiskey and feeling the slow burning sensation. (The best kind!)
Jason, who’s quite the at-home pizzaiola himself, said this is a place he often takes out-of-towners thanks to the unique atmosphere and of course the quality pies. And while some of us may be able to pull off a close to perfect replica of the dough, you’d be missing the experience of sitting on a picnic bench in the heart of Brooklyn enjoying “fine hipster Italian dining”.
Oh, and the t-shirts? They’re great too! Especially one your table mate finds on the chair next to you and kindly asks if its yours. That’s the kind of Brooklyn camaraderie worth leaving your apartment for. You can’t find that at home for simply the cost of ingredients.