Brooklyn Does Pizza Right @ Roberta’s
If your mission was not to find Roberta’s walking down Moore Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn you would not think twice when walking by the facade of an abandoned old garage building. For those on the look out, however, you’ll know you’ve reached the destination when you take the chance to glance up and see the discreet sign reading “Roberta’s” above the entrance. Here’s where you might take pause. Could this really be THE Roberta’s? How could this hole in the wall really be the pizza utopia I have heard so much about? Then you take the first step inside and suddenly the world makes sense again.
Being a Friday night at 8 p.m. I definitely expected a long wait time at Roberta’s. I had heard anywhere between 30 minutes and four hours from people I know who already made the trip. Anything under two hours was fine for me. … everyone said it was worth it, so why not! When we walked in the restaurant was bustling, but the entrance was not overcrowded by pizza-craving customers waiting for tables to open up. The scene was very pleasant. The hostess took our name and told us it would be approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. That was within the two hour threshold. … DONE! She instructed us to go out to the garden bar where we could sit, have a drink and even order some appetizers. This already sounded like the best one hour wait time I have ever had.
Walking through the main dining area I took note of the quirky and very random decor, which included long strands of Christmas lights strung along the walls. It almost looked like an assortment of mismatched tag sale gems that somehow came together, worked in the space and were able to create a hip but very warm environment. The seating arrangement is nothing fancy either. Simple picnic tables with benches, no table cloths, paper napkins and sodas served in recycled jam jars (Note: There are no backs on the benches so be prepared to engage those muscles in your back. … and test your posture). The patio area with the bar is very cool. The bar set up and decor is as creative as the main restaurant’s interior. Cocktail menus written on the walls on colorful chalkboards that are illuminated by more obscure neon lighting. There were even a few token pumpkins atop the bar as an added festive touch. Everybody out there seemed to be enjoying themselves – no matter how long they had been waiting for a table – and it was a completely different vibe from the hustle-and-bustle of inside. Also, over the fencing is a full garden where Roberta’s grows some of its vegetables, herbs, etc. There was a private event back there on Friday so I did not get to sneak a peak for myself, but it’s no wonder the greens tasted so fresh
We were able to snag a picnic table for our group so we could kick back, enjoy a drink and get right on ordering a couple apps to satiate our hunger for the ensuing hour. There’s a good selection of charcuterie and cheeses to nosh on that come with bread in addition to other nibbles. The fried cauliflower dish was pretty tasty. After getting through our snacks and two rounds of drinks our wait was up and we were called for a table. The greatest part about Roberta’s whole system is that the hostess actually comes to the back and finds you once a table is ready. This totally beats walking back and forth to the front of the restaurant and periodically asking how many more parties of six would be seated before we did. I was perfectly content at this point and anxiously anticipating the pizza to come.
When it comes to the menu you would be cheating yourself if you did not order pizza. Nearly every table I saw had at least one pizza on it. That being said, there are other things to try that make great supplements to your carb-loaded meal. The broccoli was the most impressive non-pizza item on our table. My cousin put it perfectly: “How did they make something this simple taste so delicious.” Great question. The menu reads: “Broccoli: Kale, kohlrabi and anchovy.” Ok, maybe the addition of kohlrobi makes the idea of a simple broccoli dish sound intriguing, but trust me this combination of flavors does even more to surprise you to the upside. The anchovy in the dressing is subtle but gives the dish a great flavor, and the crunchy kale complements the marinated broccoli quite well. A very simple vegetable medley that perked up all our taste buds. When it came to pizza the decision was not easy. Luckily there were six of us so we were able to get a nice sampling. As an aside, I recommend asking your server for suggestions. Ours was very friendly, happy to help and also let us know about a couple “off-the-menu” pizzas.
We ordered quite the assortment, but general consensus at the table was that the simple Margherita classic ironically took first place. The tomato sauce was faintly sweet with bubbling fresh mozzarella and a near-perfect crust. Simply delicious. The Amatriciana with pecorino, guanciale, onion and chile was a close second with its spicier tomato sauce that gave it just the right kick. Importantly, all the pizzas came out piping hot and all the ingredients were clearly fresh. My only minor complaint was how not all the pizzas came to the table at the same time. The staggering was a little off since our server brought one pizza, and then there was a good five minute lag before anything else came to the table. It’s great that the pizza arrives hot right out of the oven, but it was a tad awkward only having one pizza on the table for all of us (Note: these pies are individual-sized). I was sufficiently stuffed after the pizza and while intrigued by the dessert offerings could not get myself to take the plunge this time.
Are you convinced yet? Roberta’s has the food, the service, a hip atmosphere and constant buzz. Yes, you will have to wait but get over it. Every good thing in life is worth a little wait time. Manhattanites may be reading this and thinking, “Is she serious? Why would I need to go all the way to Bushwick to get a good slice?” And yes, there are plenty of great pizza joints, but Roberta’s has a special spark that makes this trip worth it. So if you’re feeling up to a foodie adventure and are seeking a great night full of fun and great people I would suggest hopping on the L-Train ASAP. Those in Brooklyn are the more fortuitous as they have a great neighbor in Roberta’s.
Roberta’s, 261 Moore Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11206. Phone: (718) 417-1118.
When To Book: Roberta’s does not take reservations so you just show up and prepare to wait. Wait times vary and will obviously be longer at peak times such as Friday and Saturday night. If you are a group of 10-16 people, however, the restaurant will try to accommodate a reservation so call a week in advance.