Every summer, I tease my father with the possibility of turning our detached shore house garage into a beer hall/fun center…complete with arcade games, flat screen tv’s, and a full bar. In my head, the end result is something worthy of Architectural Digest’s attention; where the collection of old fishing rods and surfboards fuse effortlessly with HDTV’s and high fives. A visionary, I purport myself to be.
This last Saturday night, my delusions of garage-themed grandeur were truly humbled when I visited Roberta’s; a layout of semi-attached, dissimilar shed-like loft space churning out fun, hey-day rap tunes, and oh yeah, really awesome grub. The interior is truly outrageous and raw. Coarse cement floors and walls, 70’s style wood paneled bathrooms, tatted-up crooked hat hipsters staffing the joint – all contributing to a scene of chaotic, yet innovative beauty. Our one-hour wait for a table is thankfully shortcut by my super slick pal, Steve, who slides into a bar-top with three vacant stools which, just nanoseconds previously, had been accommodating other patrons. A group of nearby bystanders appear upset with themselves for the lapse in surveillance. But it’s BK… so no tempers flare.
We all peruse the menu, portions of which contain hilariously named offerings like “Cheeses Christ” and “Crispy Glover” – both are types of pizza, the latter of which… Elana orders. Perhaps it was her density to do so. I mean, her destiny. Prior to ordering the pies, however, the trio orders some lardo, prosciutto and a separate dish of Gala Apples, mixed with honey, fennel and Burrata Cheese. The lardo and proscuitto are cut to a perfect thickness I find; substantial enough to provide abundant taste and salt levels. Both meats are, not surprisingly, fatty (the prosciutto is actually the most fatty I’ve ever had) yet have a delicate, milky quality. This sensation is complimented by the apples, burrata, honey and fennel which, when altogether on one fork-full, deliver an ice-cream like taste.
Now, what we really came here for… PIZZA! Roberta’s Pizza is produced within a metal, wood burning stove with a crooked, iron chimney sticking out from its top. It’s not an achievement in art or sculpture by any means, like the oven at Keste, but it gets the job done. Very well, actually. Each of our pies have the mark of a skilled Neapolitan pizzaiola: the outside of the pie has been blistered by the open flame while the inside has remained chewy, soft and elastic. My margherita pie was a bit cheesier than most of its genre, with noticeable freshness supplied by the tomatoes and basil after one pierces through it’s crackling crust.
Our other two pies, the Cripsy Glover (featuring guanciale, taleggio cheese, onions and chili peppers) and the Good Girl (Kale and Sausage) were huge hits. The Glover is wonderfully interesting, supplying a phased approach of satisfaction. Its initial crunch is quickly overcome by its porky and, ultimately, fruity characteristics…which continue to evolve and intensify as one chews. A hotboxing of the mouth, so to speak. Meanwhile, the Good Girl, teams its sausage adorned pie with bitter, shriveled, oil-trapping kale leaves. Folding this all together between the friendly, cushy confines of the dough is a treat for the pizza enthusiast. It is simply loaded with flavor. It is difficult to deduce a winner between these three pies.
Roberta’s adds an attentive and accommodating wait staff (they were kind enough to call us a cab into Manhattan), a full bar (complete with $3 bud heavies) and perhaps the greatest arsenal of musical accompaniment for a meal I have yet to experience – 90’s Dr. Dre, Tribe, Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang. It is not uncommon to observe customers and staff members alike lip synching, foot tapping, or head bobbing.
The bathrooms are two individual, wood paneled stalls, with subway tiled walls, wooden toilet seats and, importantly, locks! Nothing to complain about here.
The bottom line – Roberta’s maintains an incredibly festive, cleverly divey atmosphere while putting out talented, versatile fare. It’s reputation as one of the heavier hitters in the artisan pizza realm is surely deserved, however a dining experience within this Garage of Glory leaves one with the lasting impression that there is way more under the hood at this joint than just pizza.
Overall experience – Heat