Yes, I realize that I am making a rather bold statement. But, I spent at least a few hours before first making this declaration on Facebook, and it’s now been a few months since I ate at Rubirosa Ristorante. There’s no changing my mind. In fact, after now visiting over 300 pizza joints across the globe, I’d stand on noted New York Times pizza critic Ed Levine’s lawn in my underwear screaming it!
Let me make one slight clarification. While Rubirosa takes the prize as making the best pie, I still think that Manhattan’s Joe’s Pizza serves up the best slice. There is a difference that I think you’ll see.
I was just hours from getting on a plane to La Guardia with zero plans for pizza that evening. For some reason, I was not up for a multi-joint slice blitz. Instead, my desire was to find a nice place where I could comfortably sit and devour an entire light, thin crisp pizza.
Also wanting something new, I somehow stumbled upon a top ten list of NYC pizza places of which I had already been to nine? The remaining target was the eight-year old Rubirosa, and the pie pictured at their website looked exactly like what I was looking for. When I further read that this family-run biz was run by the son of the guy who founded Joe’s and Pat’s on Staten Island, I knew I’d picked a good place.
Rubirosa is in the NOLITA section of Lower Manhattan. “North of Little Italy” as the name implies, it is also on its main drag, Mulberry Street in the middle of Spring and Prince. It was a cold winter night, and I easily found a free street parking spot on Mulberry just a block away. The winter doors were there to protect the inside from the cold, and despite the weather, folks were waiting outside. Inside, the small room was packed as I had feared.
The interior had that appealing classic NYC barroom look and feel: a dark and noisy narrow space with a long wooden bar in the front room. The small dining tables across from the bar were full as was the tiny rear dining area. As fate would have it, my luck continued and there was one seat open at the bar waiting for me. I was seated right away, and without hesitation ordered a large cheese that they called “The Classic.” It went down in my book as the most expensive pie I have ever purchased at a whopping $26!
Sitting and waiting at the bar (making it only to question four on HQ Trivia), I became increasingly excited every time I saw a pie leave the rear kitchen. Man, they sure looked good. In preparation, they put a classy setup in front of me. Necessary were the platform for the pie and the porcelain plate from which to eat off. Unnecessary were the knife and fork (Come on, this is New York City!) and the trio tray of condiments: oregano, pepper flakes and parmesan cheese (This pie just didn’t need any help!).
On this busy night, and I expect most are, it took about 20 minutes to get my pizza. When they put that big eight-slicer in front of me, the barkeep laughed and said “So, you waiting for some friends?” I wound up killing five slices, and not wanting to be a glutton, although it would have been easy, I took home the remaining three for the freezer.
So, where do I start? Well, I just found this pizza to be perfect by all my Snob standards, hitting on every mark. It was of course thin and lightly cheesed and sauced, making it easy to go down. This pie was more akin to a Jersey bar pie than the thicker and cheesier slices you find at the slice joints on the street. The smoky-flavored crust was expertly charred making each slice solid and firm for textbook Fold and Rips. And best of all, everything about it tasted incredibly delicious. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had better-tasting oil atop a pizza. Smooth! Each time I picked up a slice, I felt like I was holding a magnificently crafted work of art.
This awesomeness of this experience had me freaking out. I asked the barkeep if he knew just how good their pizza was, and his sly smile gave away that he did know. He also said they just got voted by the Daily News as having the best spaghetti and meatballs in town. I was so gobsmacked that I even had to say something to the guy sitting next to me. He and his wife were visiting from Iowa. They came here the night before and liked it so much that they came back again! Wow – what a testimony that is with about 24,000 different places to eat in Manhattan.
How did it take me so long to get to Rubirosa? Their masterful creation is just everything I want in my pizza. It’s just fantastic, and I’ll say it again, the best pizza I have ever had in my life.
Snob to the world: When in New York City, get your slices and Joe’s and your whole pies at Rubirosa.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
235 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012