What happens when a new pizzeria is coupled with considerably positive buzz? Well, we review it of course. Even if that means enduring a late winter rainstorm to check it out. Such was the case with Rubirosa on 235 Mulberry St., which Elana and I visited just last Sunday.
Actually – while Rubirosa may be new to the immediate area, its pizza making philosophy has been around for quite some time. Chef Angelo (A.J.) Pappalardo has cooked at Esca and Osteria del Circo, but his formative restaurant experience began at age 12 washing dishes and making pizza at his father Giuseppe’s Staten Island restaurant, Joe & Pat’s.” (NYMAG)
The Scene – And if indeed Rubirosa’s pies hail from old family tradition, so too does the overall feel of the place. It’s a lot like your (Italian) Grandma’s house, especially if Grandma was really cool and kept a fully stocked bar with various kinds of whiskey and aperitifs. It’s a long, somewhat narrow space, with a quaint and charming vibe – tin ceilings, mahogany framed pictures, filament visible light bulbs and, where we were sitting, antique radio equipment. There’s even a steady collection of oldies music, which I’ve never had a problem with. Even our water comes served in a large, old school carafe.
The Grub – Elana and I start things off with 3 rice balls, which come accompanied by a small bowl of extremely fresh and flavorful tomato sauce. They have a wonderful snapping but forgiving crust, which gives way to a great tasting mixture of cheese, rice and pork bits. The breaded spheres have very good consistency – the goo is not gushing, and the crust is not crusty. There is perfect moisture and togetherness throughout each bite.
For pizza, we order their Vodka Pizza and their Classic Pizza (we opt for the smaller sizes of each). Of the two, the Vodka is the winner. It’s a hot mess of sauce, melted cheese, and a thin crust – which gets utterly, yet somehow beautifully, dominated by the pie’s heavy ingredients. As I lifted each slice from the pan, portions of it would get left behind due to the weight of it all until what was finally on my plate wasn’t actually a slice at all, but rather a steaming mound of saucy, succulent slop. And it’s delicious! The Vodka sauce is creamy, it’s cheesy, and it keeps its tomato flavor well. A little more kick could have made it flawless, although Rubirosa does provide some crushed red pepper should you desire.
The ingredients of the Classic are as you’d expect – cheese, bread, sauce. Both pies have a very thin, evenly pressed crust, yet the Classic’s has not been soggily penetrated by an abundance of Vodka sauce. The tomato sauce stands out, it is exceptional. Almost in Grimaldi’s league. The cheese, however, is a bit unnoticeable and sparingly applied. It’s still a darn good slice however, easily foldable and light – almost effortless to take down. As a server was kind enough to show me, each pizza is made within a gas pizza oven, with revolving shelves.
The Bathrooms: I send sis off to the Bathroom to pick the food out from her teeth. Her review is as follows: “There may not have been subway tiles, but the vertical wood panels continued the “grandma’s basement-chic” style. The chalkboard paint on the walls, gave the atmosphere a more playful vibe, although I would have liked some chalk to add to the decor. Large mirrors and a supply cabinet were pluses.”
Rubirosa is proof of my latest theory that there is no wrong way to make a pizza, provided you know what the heck you are doing. And they clearly do. I’ve never quite had a pie like this, and I’m glad I came to experience it. If you go, make sure to order a Vodka Pie, which was the highlight of the meal. Unfortunately, this does not count as a visit to Grandma’s house. Ungrateful bastards.
Movie equivalent – Top Gun – The Well Working Formula