Anyone who knows me in real life knows that my favourite place in NYC is Roberta’s. Sam Sifton’s 2011 review in the New York Times and a visit that same year hooked me. I was knee-deep in love before I even thought it possible to actually live here. Now, I do live here and with the exception of my office lunch sushi spot and maybe Shake Shack (for $3.76 custard charges), Roberta’s sees my credit card the most when it comes to dining out. It can do no wrong in my opinion. Their pizza is my absolute favourite (the Millenium Falco, in particular), the romaine salad a standard order, the beverage program is fantastic, and pretty much everything else I’ve had has been memorable. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have one of the best meals of my life at Michelin-starred sister restaurant, Blanca. Oh, and there is also a mobile unit that shows up throughout the year at various food festivals.
The food is accessible. The food is exceptional. You won’t be surprised to face a two- to three-hour wait at dinner time, and you won’t hear me say to leave. Have a drink in the back and wait it out. Totally worth it.
Be still my heart. There is now even MORE Roberta’s with the recent opening of a take-out spot and bakery down the block from the mothership in Brooklyn.
While my usual move is an early weeknight dinner at the bar, this new offshoot offers extras that are not available in the main dining room in the evening. The garlic knots and pastries have been receiving some buzz, and I learned you can order a “working man’s slice” made on their focaccia. But my intention for making the trek was to try the pastrami on housemade rye. That was until I read “stracciatella.” A sucker for creamy cheese, I said hello to the Italian Combo.
Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, there really was only one place (the Italian Centre Shop/Spinelli’s) to get a similar sandwich. But I know that in this city, or maybe the tri-state area or even the entire Northeast, devotees of Italian subs/heroes/hoagies definitely have strong opinions on what constitutes a proper combo and pledge allegiance accordingly. Given my experience and history as a picky eater (a story for another time), I have no such opinions. And based on how I introduced this post, I obviously loved this sandwich.
Although more modest in size than your typical Italian hero, the quality of ingredients justified the $12 price of this sandwich. And while I did go for ice cream afterward, “modest” does not mean small. In addition to the stracciatella, there was prosciutto, sopressata, mortadella, roasted red peppers, fresh basil, red onion, and pepperoncini. It was perfect. Sweet, salty, creamy, briny, spicy. And then there’s that housemade seeded Italian bread. It is a little bit rich (my bread-loving palate thinks there might be some milk or butter in the dough) to add more depth to the sandwich and just soft enough to yield to a squeeze and a bite without causing any fall-apart catastrophes.
Now, as a take-out spot, there are no seats. For those of us who don’t live in the vicinity, I understand that if it’s nice out, you can eat in the main restaurant’s back garden. Otherwise, there is a large high-top table where you can stand (which I did). I am not one who enjoys standing while eating, but I can try to compromise once in a while for the ones I love. And I love you a lot, Roberta’s.