By The Slice: Neither A Crisis Nor A Boring Change

With a characteristic amount of fanfare, which is to say none at all, Roberta’s had briefly endorsed Rhaenyra Targaryen. For just about a week — if you’re reading this, you’ve already missed it — the doors of the upscale pizzeria’s new slice shop were decorated with flags that announced things like “Roberta’s Is Loyal To The One True Queen,” a reference to the character Emma D’Arcy plays on the show.

The vaguely elaborate advertisement for the new season of the HBO spinoff would extend to selling a themed “Slice of the Seven Kingdoms,” a pie whose presence was as curious and short-lived as any other ideas coming from the Zaslav media conglomerate. But what was perhaps silliest about the sponsored content was that Roberta’s has already, since mid-spring, been selling slices of a different kind of pie that would have been even more fitting endorsement for a fantasy TV show about dragons: the fire & ice, an occasionally reappearing pie that the pizzeria has only just now started selling by the slice ($6).

Coming now in the form of a thin, yet cavernous canyon of stracciatella cheese amid islands of schmeared, brick-red ‘ndjua, these fall off the bone like anything else that has come out of these wood-fired stoves over the last decade or so. For slightly less ($4-$5) you can pick up simpler plain or pepperoni versions, which come out in gently enormous, lunch-worthy slices that arrive on paper plates, like you’re still in high school or at your corner Sal’s.

Coming, instead, from Roberta’s, the overall conceit is a welcome one. Part of a generation that repeatedly tried to reinvent pizzas as self-contained statements of purpose, Roberta’s had suggested that interesting, conversational meals could be unnaturally cut into four or eight slices for no particular purpose at all. It was an idea that worked and turned out to be what the various Bushwicks of the world seemed to want. These new zas were easy to share, perfect for the decade’s new date night economy. Amid the authentically reused shipping containers of its post-industrial backyard, Marnie and Charlie would break up, Beyonce and Jay-Z would fued. Imitations on this general idea would pop, like mushrooms after a spring rain, out of other former knitting factories and hardware stores, including at least four outposts around the city and country that bore the endorsement of Roberta’s itself. By becoming the Nathan’s of cosmopolitan hipsterdom, Roberta’s had turned from “an unlikely cathedral to such culinary excellence” to just another place to take people from out of town. At one point, owners Carlo Mirarchi and Brandon Hoy turned a semi-secret tasting menu into a stand-alone Michelin-style dining experience, which is kept on premises too, locked behind modernist glass doors and a notoriously picky reservation list. One has not so much as heard good things about Blanca as seen its “thrilling bowls of pasta” noted by the New York Times as belonging to the second-greatest restaurant in all of the city. If it was Roberta’s world, we were still living in it. 

But what they hadn’t done yet was sell pizza by the slice.

This corner of Brooklyn could use more of those. The solitary slice isn’t a meal; it’s a lunch, it’s a small event passing through time like the lighting of a cigarette; it’s a small, fifteen-minute way of life. The dollar or dollar-fifty slice shops so popular in Manhattan may be largely extinct in northern Brooklyn, but the minimally adorned, sub-ten dollar lunch is appreciated too. 

The spin from Roberta’s is a value add. Even the cheese on the plain feels vaguely upmarket, the pepperoni sliced with a particularly greasy competence. It’s nice, on some existential level, to know that Roberta’s can do this too. (Well enough that they’re planning on bringing it to their upcoming midtown location next month.) Remarkably mediocre slice shops abound, even in the most unsuspecting of nothing places, so the diligence is appreciated. The upscale twists on slice shop tradition feel, in their own way, fresh. An order of garlic knots ($7) which currently come in cardboard to-go containers, arrive the size of artisanally-sized pastries, the kind you would buy at a self-conscious coffee shop. They have that handmade feel, a little too big and flakey to really work, but with a kind of intentionality that commands respect. Sold out of, for now at least, the quiet, sheet-metal corner of the restaurant previously tasked with dealing with take-out orders and selling ice cream, there’s a kind of zen to the whateverness of it all. You can get a beer or wine too, interchangeably by the can, coming out of the fridge as cold and sweaty as the summer night.  

‘R Slice’ is located at 257 Moore Street. Keep up with their hours and events on Instagram.

Photos taken by Andrew Karpan.

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