Apps Only: Roberta's
While Roberta's is best known as a Bushwick brick-oven pizza joint favored by neighborhood hipsters, it has certainly evolved beyond that pizza; recently, I've heard a great deal of talk about the other dishes on the menu. What first jumped out at us? Pork Jowl ($16). Nowhere does the menu actually come out and call it an entree, so I figured the jowl would fit nicely into the Apps Only plan. Could we dine well here for under $15/person?
The dish arrived—that $16 gets you three pieces of fried jowl, radish slices and greens, a garnish of apple water, and a striking presentation. There wasn't a ton of meat, but the jowl is so fatty and rich that we weren't dying for more by the time we finished. It was crispy on the outside, though when I took a bite it melted away on my tongue; salty, but not overly so. What looked like a bit of a ripoff when it hit the table turned out to be a knockout.
With everyone around us chowing down on pizza, we were unable to resist, so we rounded out our meal with a Millennium Falco ($14), a pie topped with tomato, parmesan, pork sausage, garlic, onions, bread crumbs and basil. That may sound like a lot of ingredients, but they all worked together, with the sweet onions and the sausage dominating the pie. The crust was airy with plenty of chew. If the jowl dish was a bit of a splurge, this pie was the value packed (and filling) half of our meal.
While Roberta's may not be a small plates destination, and not a place to sample widely on the cheap, the pizza menu is full of good deals and interesting flavor combinations. I expected the prices, this being Bushwick, to be lower than they were, but nothing was outrageously overpriced; we ate for $30 before tax and tip (there were two of us), and even though we only shared two dishes we walked away full and satisfied. If you're in the neighborhood, it would be hard to do better than Roberta's.