My first knowledge of Roberta’s was from hearing our FTC’ers talk about the pop-up 2 years ago. It sounded intriguing but our schedules never allowed us to make the pop-up before it was over. Fast forward a couple years and Roberta’s signed a deal with Platform - the ultimate hamster warren on the Westside if there ever was one - to open a permanent brick and mortar space.
Founded in Brooklyn, New York over 10 years ago, Roberta’s claim to fame seems to be its coolness for the local Bushwick neighborhood hamsters and the underground scene (according to articles from the NY Times, Robb Report and other media outlets). We were curious and excited to see what this famed Pizza would taste like now that it arrived in L.A.
During our first visit, you’re greeted by the clanking and roar of an open kitchen and 2 wood burning ovens. According to their talkative Pizzaiolo (and the manager and 2 different servers), Roberta’s is serving Neapolitan Pizzas, but as @bulavinaka and @ipsedixit have noted, these are more of a new alternate style of Neapolitan Pizza than a totally traditional version.
Porchetta Pizza (Taleggio, Porchetta and Red Onion with Basil, Chili Flake, Garlic and Oregano):
The brick and mortar version of Roberta’s are serving 12" Pizzas, and their Porchetta arrives with a heavy leopard-spotting. The Porchetta Pizza is tasty on the first bite, but really greasy and kind of messy to eat. The Porchetta sadly has none of the luscious qualities that you might think of when you hear “Porchetta,” instead tasting like dried up, chewy Pork.
Gigli with Little Neck Clams (White Wine, Parsley, and Garlic):
Their server proudly proclaims that they make all their Pastas in-house; this sounded promising. Unfortunately, if you ever wanted to find an example of where all Handmade Pastas are not the same, look no further than Roberta’s. The Gigli is decent, a bit overcooked, but the flavors are where this dish crashed and burned: Super salty, extremely chewy Clams. This was not a good dish on any level, and a far cry from places like Pasta Sisters (just down the street), let alone maestros like Leo Bulgarini or Evan Funke.
Bee Sting Pizza (Tomato, Soppressata, Mozzarella, Chili Oil, Honey, Basil):
Their famed Bee Sting Pizza lived up to the hype thankfully: Savory, sweet, spicy, aromatic from the Basil, with a tasty finish from the Soppressata, it worked. It’s a bit unconventional with Honey, but the balance of flavors was there on this visit. Definitely our favorite of this 1st visit.
If it wasn’t for the Bee Sting, we probably might not have returned.
Famous Original Pizza (Tomato, Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Caciocavallo and Red Pepper Flakes):
Essentially a 3 Cheese Pizza, it seemed a bit underwhelming after trying the Bee Sting right before it. It was fine, with each of the Cheeses adding something to each bite, but it wasn’t as crave worthy as the Bee Sting.
Linguine Cacio e Pepe (Pecorino Romano & Black Pepper):
Hoping that their Pastas might actually be good, we tried another one on this visit. Their Linguine Cacio e Pepe was better than the Gigli with Clams, but it was still pretty mundane: Mainly salty, slightly peppery and just lacking that dynamic quality to make it pop. It was a far cry from Felix’s Cacio e Pepe and maybe in the middle tier of Cacio e Pepe we’ve tried over the last few years.
Dry Aged Beef Carpaccio (Vin Cotto, Parmesan and Grilled Lemon):
One unique thing Roberta’s is doing over a standard Pizza joint is that it’s dry-aging various cuts of meat. Their Dry Aged Beef Carpaccio is sufficiently funky, beefy, umami and really stands out! Delicious. (Huge thanks to @PorkyBelly for the recommendation.)
Normcore (Heirloom Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Garlic, Basil, Sea Salt):
One thing to note is that their Pizzas are super thin. In about 10 - 20% of the Pizzas we ordered it was accidentally punctured (as seen in the pic above).
The Normcore was pretty tasty, but it’s hard to go wrong with classic ingredients that are like a variation on the Margherita. We loved the brightness and sweetness in the Tomatoes, the Mozzarella and aromatic Basil, along with a nice punch from the Garlic.
Spacatelli Pomodoro (Heirloom Tomatoes & Parmigiano Reggiano):
Bright, sweet, creamy but not overly heavy, this was a great Pasta dish (finally). The Spacatelli was also properly cooked al dente with a nice chew.
White & Greens Pizza (Mozzarella, Parmigiano, Mixed Mustard Greens, Baby Lettuces, Lemon):
I confess I’ve never had Abbott’s Pizza Company’s Salad Pizza, but Roberta’s White & Greens Pizza might be just the one to spark debate amongst our FTC Salad Pizza Lovers and Haters (@bulavinaka @Bookwich @President_Mochi @lapizzamaven).
We actually ordered this thinking the Vegetables would be cooked / heated and incorporated into the Pizza. Seriously, this felt like a Cheese Pizza with Salad Greens thrown on top. Which is OK for something different / refreshing perhaps, but notice how sloppy they got with the Pizza (see pic below):
They didn’t even add enough cheese to cover most of one section of the Pizza (it was just dough).
When you’re charging nearly ~$25.00 (incl. tax & tip) for a 12" Pizza, throwing Salad Greens on top of a sloppily made pie (and not even covering it all in Cheese) feels a bit disappointing.
The actual taste was so-so: The uncut whole, large Lettuce and Mixed Green Leaves were loose and easily fell off each slice. So you had to try and carefully balance a large, unwieldy Salad Green Leaf and take a bite of the Pizza and hope you got a bite of both, or just smash it all together with your hands to hold it and eat.
Bucatini Carbonara (Guanciale and Pecorino Romano with Egg Yolk):
Their Bucatini Carbonara tasted like a slightly gussied up version of their Cacio e Pepe: Mainly cheesy and peppery, there was a slightly heavier flavor coming through from the Egg Yolk and Guanciale, but sadly the porkiness was barely there.
Yellow Polenta (Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Clam Broth, Pear and Nasturtium):
Good flavors and ideas, except it was done in by mediocre Uni. It wasn’t rotting, but it had a slight oceanic funk to it, but still had some sweetness. If this had been the pristine Uni when it’s at its best, this would’ve been phenomenal. As it was, for the bites that had some freshness and sweet Uni, it was tasty, but undercut by the variable quality of the Uni on this visit (or that Roberta’s isn’t getting the best quality Uni it can and serving it fast enough before it starts to degrade).
Lil’ Stinker Pizza (Tomato, Mozzarella, Parmigiano, Pecorino, Pepperoncini Peppers, Red Onion, Double Garlic):
Was there some natural funk from the 3 Cheeses? Sure. But we actually found it to be quite fragrant, especially with the Roasted Garlic as well. This turned out to be quite tasty: Garlicky, oniony, very cheesy and the Pepperoncini Peppers added some slight heat to it. Probably our 2nd favorite Pizza from Roberta’s so far.
Bee Sting Pizza (Tomato, Soppressata, Mozzarella, Chili Oil, Honey, Basil):
One of the things that kept bouncing around as I contemplated why Roberta’s was able to satiate our hunger so effectively when they churned out super thin Pizzas (and we don’t eat most of the crust here because of how blistered / burnt it gets); why I could barely finish 2 slices of Pizza before I felt totally full and not so well at times… it finally clicked on this visit: It was the sheer amount of fat, oil and grease on their pies:
You can literally see this Pizza swimming in its oil, fat and grease.
It’s soaking through the crust (above).
So despite how thin (less carbs!) it is, most of the time we noticed that the oil would soak through the Pizza box when we took home leftovers. Ultimately, less Pizza dough, less bready, but still filling because of the oil, fat and grease.
The Bee Sting Pizza on this visit was a bit too wet and liquidy. Flavor-wise, it was still spot-on with its spicy, sweet, savory, umami bursts though.
Double Burger (Potato Roll, American Cheese, White Onion, Pickles and Spread):
Originally we had no interest in ordering their Burger, but our server couldn’t stop raving about it, claiming it was the “best thing on the menu!” It was high praise, so we decided to give it a try.
First, they seriously couldn’t bother serving it with Melted Cheese?! 2 cold slices of American Cheese on top, the 3rd slice was melting inbetween the 2 Beef Patties made it feel like a mistake already.
However, taking a bite:
There’s a real beefiness and juiciness pouring out of each bite! It’s an 80/20 combination of Dry Aged Oregon “Wagyu” Beef Chuck and Shoulder. (I hope restaurants stop calling American Beef “Wagyu”, but given the ubiquitous nomenclature for “American Kobe Sliders” appearing at a dive bar near you, I doubt that’ll happen.)
Back to the Burger, given how amazing their Beef Carpaccio was (with their own Dry Aged Beef), it makes sense how delicious their Burger was.
However, it was brought down by a few things: The 2 slices of cold American Cheese on top and the lack of any other seasoning to cut through some of the fattiness (unless you started eating the Pickles). Also the Potato Bun disintegrated too easily. It lacked that gloriousness of the first time we had a Golden State Burger years ago, or the one at Morton’s thanks to the thread on our old board. But this was quite surprising despite the minor hiccups.
Half Roasted Duck (Dry Aged with Sunflower Seed Mole and Soft Herbs):
When we saw the words “Dry Aged” and “Duck”, it was a must order! Sadly, it was not meant to be: First, this took 40 minutes to come out of the kitchen. When it arrived, the skin was flaccid and it looked rather unappetizing. But we kept hope.
Cutting into it and taking a bite: A salt bomb! Totally salty with some funkiness, but all you mainly tasted was flabby skin, overly firm meat and salt.
To make matters worse, it was undercooked. This was the most well-done portion of the Duck:
It got straight up raw in some sections.
Their Mole Sauce was interesting, but didn’t really complement the Duck. It felt like a total side dish.
Crispy Glover Pizza (Tomato, Taleggio, Guanciale, Red Onion, Garlic, Chili and Breadcrumbs):
This had noticeable spiciness, with a slow building heat that lingered awhile after you finished eating. The combination of Tomato, Taleggio, Red Onion, Garlic are all great and familiar, but the Guanciale disappointed in that it just wasn’t as porky as you would hope for a great Guanciale (by comparison, Pizzeria Mozza’s Guanciale Pies have been outstanding, such as their Guanciale and English Pea seasonal offering).
That’s All, Folks! Pizza (Porchetta, Taleggio, Red Onion, Basil, Garlic, Toasted Fennel Seed, Oregano and Chili):
This was more fragrant, with herb notes, but it felt really heavy and greasy at times. The Porchetta topping just isn’t as satisfying as their Soppressata or a good Pepperoni. Something is getting lost in the process.
Here’s another example of a sloppily made pie (with a noticeable chunk of the pie missing any toppings or cheese):
Gigli with Anchovy and Mint (Chili, Garlic and Breadcrumbs):
In the NY Times article about Roberta’s, it was mentioned that in the early days Roberta’s was all about letting their kitchen staff just create whatever they wanted. One has to wonder if that’s what’s happening here, because this Pasta should not have been served to anyone:
Complete and utter salt bomb!
To the point of inedible.
We had to send it back. It was insane how bad this Pasta was.
Ursula’s Parade (Mozzarella, Parmigiano, Cherrystone Clams, Calabrian Chilies, Garlic, Parsley, Lemon):
I’m always on the lookout for a delicious Clam Pizza, as a break from the usual pies we try, so we were hopeful Roberta’s version might be a winner. When you got a bite that had some of the chopped up Cherrystone Clams, the combination of slightly briny, spicy, bright Lemon and Parmigiano and Mozzarella along with their tasty Pizza dough base made the Ursula’s Parade sing.
However it seems like a proper Clam Pizza is a bit more generous with its actual Clam topping? (I’ll let East Coast experts like @TheCookie chime in.) When you’re being charged over $30+ (incl. tax & tip) for this Pizza, and it’s pretty sparse throughout the pie, it feels a bit too precious.
Service at Roberta’s is pretty mediocre. From its early days where you would wait in line and order at the counter, over time, it’s now a full service restaurant where you’re seated and someone will take your order and deliver the food to your table. Servers were generally unresponsive on many of the visits, or would be so busy they couldn’t be bothered to see you waving to get their attention.
After a few months in full operation, Roberta’s is a New York transplant, serving their version of Neapolitan Pizza, super thin, gloppy at times, too oily at times, with some interesting standouts. Their Pastas (outside of their Spacatelli Pomodoro) ranged from mediocre to inedible, and most of their Pizzas lean on the oily, greasy and heavy side.
The one key thing Roberta’s nailed right was their Pizza dough: It is flavorful, and that, with standouts like their Bee Sting (when it isn’t swimming in oil), and Lil’ Stinker, make it our choice over Pizzana (where the dough is just too bland). We’d also go back for their Dry Aged Beef Carpaccio and Burger if we were in the area.
However it just doesn’t rise to the level of L.A.'s best Pizzerias. We had follow-up visits to Pizzeria Mozza and DeSano after our 6 visits to Roberta’s and you realize why @lapizzamaven and other Pizza afficianado’s enjoy them so much. Roberta’s is a good option if you’re in the neighborhood, but we find ourselves willing to drive out to Pizzeria Mozza and DeSano’s when in the mood for a great pie.
8810 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Tel: (718) 417-1118