• 261 Moore St.
• Brooklyn, NY 11206
• (718) 417-1118 •
As everyone knows who hasn't, by either accident or design, been living in a cave since the election, there is something called "Pizzagate." Pizzagate, for those still ensconced and snuggled in said cave, is the cooked-up allegation by Republican conspiracy-mongers that the Hillary Clinton campaign was running a network of child-sex-slavery rings out of a variety of pizza shops across the country. Most people with two brain cells to rub together would find this laughable on its face, but for a bunch of folkels, this was no laughing matter and, just recently, a concerned citizen crawled out of his trailer, cleared the Miller Low Life cans off the front seat of his car and drove over to DC to shoot up a restaurant and liberate him some chilluns. After his arrest, he admitted that, perhaps, his "intel wasn't 100%." This hasn't stopped people from continuing to accuse other pizza places on the list, though, among them Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn.
Like our hick friend, I had to investigate.
Roberta's is located on a grungy, industrial-ish block on the Williamsburg edge of Bushwick, past a youth hostel and a shipping depot. Covered in so much graffiti that the entrance to the restaurant is all but invisible to the naked eye, one could imagine nefarious things within this secret brothel. Would a violent gang be running the place, clad in leather and chains and mohawks? Would they demand a password I didn't know? Would I be beaten and left broken and bloodied in an alley? Would child hookers be on the menu like they were whiskeys? "I'll have a Canadian. 12 year." The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping as I stepped over the curb to cross the street. A brisk wind caught the back of my neck and gave me a chill. I yearned for the kind of comfort that can only come from eating warm (pizza) pie.
If you were to imagine a hipster pizza joint, it would be Roberta's. Roberta's sandwiches every stereotype possible between its walls. If you can think of one, they have it. And if they don't, call them up and let them know. They'll add it to the mix. I mentioned the graffiti outside. It's intentional; an homage to the old gritty Brooklyn that Millennials idolize (I'll never understand the morbid craving to be surrounded by heroin-addicted rapists covered in their own excrement). Inside are long, dark-wood communal tables and dim lights, paintings by local artists and scratchiti, cinder blocks and Edison bulbs. Drinks come in mason jars. Unless you count tattoo sleeves, not a soul in the joint wasn't white; but Roberta's soundtrack is uncensored rap. As the exterior is an homage to dirty Brooklyn, the inside is an homage to the dive bars that used to be there. But I've been to dive bars. Bars where the bartender will sell you a loosie and the toilet in the bathroom is missing the seat. Bars where the wine list is just Boone's and there's a guy sleeping in the corner booth. This ain't no dive bar any more than Rainforest Cafe is actually in a rainforest. And it ain't a brothel. And there were no mohawk-wearing gang-bangers swinging chains like lassos.
By this point, you might be thinking that I didn't like Roberta's. Actually, I did like it. It had a warmth. The staff was nice. There was a pleasant energy. I went alone, sat at the bar, ordered a craft IPA and a pizza to start with, and read the New York Times on my phone. I'd do this again in a heartbeat! But didn't I beat up on it for being either a transparent parody or utterly clueless to its own stereotypography? Well, I pointed it out. Once you recognize and accept the tropes for what they are, you can roll your eyes and enjoy them. Think of it as you would think of going to a certain kind of ethnic restaurant. Like, you don't think twice when you see sliding paper doors at a Japanese restaurant or red checkered tablecloths at you local red sauce spot. Maybe "Urban Hipster" can be its own subcategory.
So besides drinking beer and failing to find underage prostitutes, did I eat? I did. Roberta's has a decent menu. Craft beer, wine, cocktails on the one side. Salads, pastas, pizzas, cheese plates and charcuterie on the other. There's plenty to choose from, but the smell of the wood burning oven was enough to push me into pizza territory. I ordered the Famous Original, a relatively classic pie made with tomato sauce, oregano, a mix of three cheeses, and some chili peppers for a little bite. The pizza was perfect. It had just the right amount of everything, including oven char. I had to force myself to nurse it over the course of half an hour or so. The pie, at about 14 inches in diameter, looks bigger than it is.
When the pizza was gone, I found myself hungry still and I didn't want to leave. It felt like I'd just arrived. I decided to get something healthy and picked out the Romaine Salad, made with candied walnuts and shaved pecorino cheese. You have to like traditional caesar salads and the anchovy-heavy dressing that they don't mention on the menu, and the fact that the lettuce leaves are uncut makes eating it awkward, but while it won't win any awards any time soon, it wasn't bad.
Pizzas at Roberta's are about $16, the salads average $15. Factor in two drinks, tax and tip, and at $63, this was not a cheap pizza joint dinner. But it's a good pie, a fun place to hang out, and if it was singled out by Right Wing lunatics, it was well worth my, and hopefully all of your support.