Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Staten Island Style: Rubirosa and Pier 76

Just over a year ago, a Staten Island specialty (complete with one of its most famous namesakes) was ferried to Manhattan in the form of Rubirosa. Setting up shop in Nolita, across the street from Torrisi Italian Specialties, together they've established a bastion of neo-classic Italian cuisine along the edge of the less-than-classics of Little Italy, just a block away.

Despite high expectations (especially for the pizza), I've yet to be disappointed with anything I've eaten on numerous lunchtime visits. 

Arancini comes extra cheesy, filled with mascarpone, prosciutto and fontina. The wedge salad, meanwhile, is served with a couple strips of bacon, vodka blue cheese dressing and a scattering cherry tomatoes. Call me old fashioned, but I like my wedges drenched in blue cheese dressing. Even so, this rendition of the classic is a smart way to start your meal.

Or you could get the meatballs, which can be ordered as sliders covered in melted mozzarella, but are even better as an appetizer, served by themselves in a skillet and drenched in a chunky tomato sauce.

Circling back around to that Staten Island cred I mentioned before... it comes in the form of a co-owner who grew up in his father's world-famous (in Staten Island, at least) Joe & Pat's Pizzeria. Functionally, this means that the pies are better than everything else on the menu. Thin, even for a Staten Island style pizza, and well charred, this pie is quite close to thin-crust nirvana. The toppings are excellent across the board; meatball, with its marble sized balls, complements the rest of the ingredients. Also memorable was a large arugula and prosciutto pie that required a post-meal nap. Vodka pizza (pictured below) is a solid choice, but pales in comparison to the classic sauce, which is tomato-y without being too assertive.

Be aware, these pies can be very large despite the deceptiveness of the thin crust. Two people can comfortably eat a regular, but most will struggle on a large pie (better to add a third person, or get a regular pie plus an app). 

Speaking of vodka pies...

Pier 76 on Bay Street in Staten Island is within the same galaxy of pizzerias in the Joe & Pat's progeny. (Is that a mixed metaphor?) By virtue of it being exceedingly close to the courthouse in Richmond Terrace (and right off the ferry), Pier 76 has become my go to lunch on Staten Island. Though, I wasn't impressed the first time, I've since discovered the slice that truly deserves accolades.

That's right, it's the vodka slice (closest in the picture), whose cool orange sauce is much more mellow than at Rubirosa. This is a good thing. Where vodka sauce can sometimes be harsh, here it is has only a slight bite. Unlike at Rubirosa, the cheese is piled high, but the discs of milky, melted mozzarella don't seem like overkill, and exponentially larger slices have the feel of a more traditional NY slice. Right now, I can't conceive of a slice I crave more.

Anyone need pro bono work done in Staten Island?

235 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012
212) 965-0500 
Rubirosa on Urbanspoon

Pier 76
76 Bay Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
(718) 447-7434

Pier 76 on Urbanspoon


  1. I think you're the first person to ever make me crave thin-crust pizza. Maybe it was just the use of the word "large", but still.

  2. I love Pier 76 try the fiocchi and pear pasta

    1. Couldn't agree more about the regular slices. Today after reading your review I must try the vodka slice.