Rockin’ Good Pizza at Roberta’s

Presidents’ Day Weekend was just days away, and a last minute scramble to find awesome deals to somewhere fantastic on was underway. $629 round-trip tickets to Stockholm?? I want to go to there, sign me up please! But then we came across an article in NY Magazine about how the Swedes have embraced all things Brooklyn. Slap something with “Brooklyn” on the label, apparently, and the Swedes are all over it. We decided it probably made no sense to fly all the way to a city trying to model itself after Brooklyn when we can just take the L train a few stops over for a lot less.

Seeing how the TV show Girls is all the rage, we decided to make a daytrip out to Bushwick, a neighborhood featured by the show, and have lunch at the much venerated Roberta’s. Williamsburg is my frame of reference for Brooklyn, so I was surprised to see how less developed Bushwick was. It reminded me of Long Island City and probably Williamsburg before it was trendy–lots of bleak, industrial looking buildings everywhere, livened up a bit with a lot of graffiti street art. The entrance to Roberta’s is in one of these nonassuming warehouse type buildings. Even at the random hour of 3 pm, a wait for a party of two was 45 minutes to an hour. The wait isn’t too bad, since you can move towards the bar in the back and order house cocktails, beer and wine, as well as food off the main menu, which the staff will gladly move for you once your table is ready.

There’s a nice, lively yet laid-back vibe that permeates the scene at Roberta’s. Guests are seated at wooden communal tables reminiscent of a beer garden with Daft Punk playing in the background. I was thrilled that Roberta’s offered my favorite beer, a Japanese brand called Hitochino:

We had to order a signature pizza, of course, and opted for the Famous Original, as well as ordering the Brussels Sprouts and the Sweet Potato Duck Hash special. The Brussels Sprouts come out first, and I really liked how light and refreshing the dish was. Brussels sprouts tend to be roasted in olive oil with bacon or pancetta, which is a delicious preparation but perhaps not the healthiest. Roberta’s shreds the brussels sprouts in a manner like coleslaw and dresses it in a light sauce. A boiled egg, slightly charred pieces of brussels sprout leaves and delicious unctuous chunks of guanciale give the light salad some hints of heart personality. There was a bit of a lag with the pizza, but it was well worth the wait. The crust was perfect, crispy on the outside yet warm, soft and chewy on the inside. The airy dough bubbles gave the crust a lightness that was not dense or overbearing. I found it interesting that the Famous Original came already seasoned with some chili flakes. I supposed people always ask for chili flakes or hot sauce to season their pizza, so why not just save them the trouble by doing some of the legwork for them. The fresh mozzarella was mild and slightly stringy, and the tomato sauce was almost neutral in taste. It’s clear that the crust and the chili flakes were the main drivers of flavor for the Famous Original pizza. The Sweet Potato Duck Hash consisted of pan-fried, fatty duck pieces and sweet potato topped with a fried piece of egg. The sweet potato was a little too pureed, and the duck was a bit too crispy and hash-brown like. I would have preferred a preparation more traditional in nature, but Roberta’s is all about breaking tradition, so perhaps that was unrealistic. If you’re going to break tradition, then it should still be memorable and outstanding in its own way. The Brussels Sprouts and pizza certainly achieved that, but the sweet potato hash could have been better.

Roberta’s is the perfect place for a group of friends to grab some beers and eat some elevated home-style, comfort foods. Now we know why all the cool kids like Hannah and Jemima make their rounds here.