I can’t emphasize this enough: Roberta’s has an amazing rotating seasonal kitchen, that everyone successfully ignores, getting the same old bread and butter, alongside a pizza, over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, the pizza isn’t bad, but the kitchen is better.
Just hear me out: vegetables are hard to sell, I get it. Pizza has the comfort of a warm blanket, softly hugging your winter waistline. But, Roberta’s chef and crew source amazing in-season produce year round, and it is now the time for the root vegetable and winter fruit to shine.
I was lucky to come by when the special was beans with bergamot. Did you hear what I said? Let me repeat that: Bergamot. The root, the real thing. Not the artificial flavoring in your cup of Earl Gray tea. When were you ever offered bergamot root? Probably, never. The lemony, floral, beans smothered in a tangy sauce, were so delicate and bright, perfected by the crunch of bergamot root, radicchio and endive.
Get the grilled bread with stracciatella cheese instead of a pizza or bread and butter. The made in-house stringy, silky cheese will send you on a satisfying flavorful adventure. The crispy, slightly burnt bread, dipped into the milky puddle with olive oil and black pepper is just an even better version of a cacio e pepe. A bit of bread and cheese, a bite of beans, you see what I’m saying? It’s perfection.
From the salad list I choose the roasted sunchokes with hazelnuts and dates. This vegetable, also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, resembles a ginger root. The sunchokes are sweet, cooked to perfection: tender on the inside, crispy on the outside. The subtle sweetness of the dates and crunchy toasty nuts compliment the root, making you reach for one hot bite after another. Marshmallow yams? Fuhgeddaboudit. Like seriously, forget about those forever and get these sunchokes.
From the kitchen I get their roasted root vegetables with a creamy umami-filled bagna cauda sauce. The classic Italian hot dip is made of butter, anchovies and garlic. I also ask for their wood-fired Romanesco. It comes perfectly charred with labneh, radish and pomegranate seeds. The play between the earthy flavors with tangy, creamy sauces, and bright little pops of fruit or berries, make these dishes the ultimate comfort food, checking off all the points to be so fucking good.
Even the rotating dessert is a winter vegetable: pumpkin panna cotta. A surprising twist on a pumpkin pie, this beautifully assembled dessert has a smoky caramel, earthy panna cotta, and it is tart and floral thanks to a ball of meyer lemon sherbert.
The care in each element of the dish balances the play of textures and flavors. Each bite is a new unexplored combination between the crumble, pomegranate seeds and the soft, silky Italian jello.
Next time there’s an hour wait to be seated, take your time to learn about the seasonal offers, as they come and go. The pizza will always be there, so don’t lose your chance for an elegant and well-crafted vegetable dinner.
All images courtesy of Irina Groushevaia.