Friday, April 6, 2012

Dishing Roberta’s

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 1:34 PM

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Photos Rory Cullen

“Meat.” That’s what Steve likes to shop for (even though Roberta’s cures its own). He gets the sweet pork sausage for the “Beastmaster” pie from the Meat Hook in Williamsburg. The shop changes selections daily, and there’s always a variety of housemade bangers on hand.

Bushwick’s Roberta’s is something of a phenomenon: a cooler-than-cool Brooklyn restaurant that actually deserves all the positive press it’s received. Not only does this hipster collective of over 50 employees serve up some of the best pies in the five boroughs, Roberta’s also bakes its own bread, grows its own greens, and broadcasts from its own radio station. Steve Gonzalez, head pizzaman, breaks it down. “The people here are just really fucking good at what they do.” And Brooklyn loves them for it.


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The Meat Hook shares Roberta’s sustainable philosophy, focusing on locally raised, organic meat—it’s all about grass-fed and freshly dead.


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Upstairs at the Meat Hook is the Brooklyn Kitchen, home to all essential cookware, along with classes in butchery, homebrewing, mushroom foraging, and food and wine tastings.


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Steve shops for cheese at the Lower East Side’s Saxelby Cheesemongers (in the Essex Street Market).


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Saxelby sells Farmstead cheeses, yogurts, and milks produced in the American Northeast (some as close as Brooklyn). It doesn’t hurt that proprietor Anne Saxelby is lovely, and knows everything there is to know about cheese.


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Roberta’s tiki bar, out back, has a mercifully short cocktail list: Green Boots (tequila, cucumber, lime, honey), Hoppin (gin, campari, grapefruit), Affinity (single malt, vermouth, bitters), Chaplin (bourbon, sherry, grand marnier, ramazotti).


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Bushwick, America. Pictured here: the office. The real work—the “safety meetings” (Urban Dictionary)—gets done in the garage, where the bosses can be found drinking beer and making Roberta’s T-shirts. As if there weren’t enough reasons to love working at Roberta’s, the day crew can bring their pets to work.


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Margarito. Steve refers to him as the “glue of the operation.” He’s there six days a week pulling mozzarella, making sauce, and baking bread. He absolutely does not stop.


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Roberta’s goes through about 200 to 400 of these dough balls every day, which end up as pizzas with names like the Cheesus Christ, the Specken Wolf, the Portoballer… the list goes on. Who comes up with the names? “We just throw out some ridiculous shit, and if something sounds funny, it goes on the menu.”


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Saxelby’s Cheese (clockwise from top): Pearl, Queso Fresco (or as Steve calls it “Mexican Mozzarella”) and Pipe Dreams Buche.


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Before settling in New York, Steve spent several years working in Italy, mostly in Sardinia. He’s cooked at all levels, from three-star to Nona’s kitchen. He says of his gig at Roberta’s, “I just like being here. We spend so much time at work, if you don’t love it, there’s no point.”


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Roberta’s signature red, wood-burning oven reaches temperatures over 700°F, perfecting pizza and calzone crusts in less than eight minutes.


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Queso fresco meets chicken-and-ramp sausage: Steve paired the day’s haul of meat and cheese with mustard greens from the greenhouse and pickled red onions.



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Kathleen Cullen

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