Roberta’s

3.5slices
261 Moore St.
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11206
718-417-1118

Well, I have to say, the timing was right on this one. Jason Feirman (Remember him?) and I ventured to Bushwick last night to experience the culinary joys of Roberta’s, another of Brooklyn’s reputable pizza joints. Funny enough, the New York Times ran a piece that same day sharing the secrets behind making great pizza dough at home and their recipe of choice came straight from Roberta’s which dining editor Sam Sifton claims is “superlative dough: thin and pliant, tender and chewy, with excellent flavor.”

He’s quite right, and he makes a good point when he says that:

Very little pizza is made at home, from scratch.

I am here to say: You can make pizza at home. You can make pizza at home that will be the equal of some of the best pizzas available on the planet. With a minimal amount of planning and practice, you can get good at it, even if you are a relatively novice cook.

Sure, you can make pizza at home. Not just that, but if you’re well practiced you may even become pretty great at it. However, what you won’t get is the communal experience, the grunge atmosphere and the old school hip hop vibes which, in the case of Roberta’s, are a large part of the appeal. Roberta’s doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, it looks more so like a graffitied garage where band mates practice after-hours without receiving complaints from pissed off neighbors.

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As you enter the front room, you immediately feel the comforts equivalent to middle school days when you went to hang out after classes finished in your friend’s basement. Picnic tables host laid back patrons and the staff, along with the fresh tomato sauce aromas, are particularly welcoming.

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As Jason and I waited not more than 20 minutes at the back bar (usually it’s closer to an hour plus), we ordered a few beers poured in none other than mason jars, a nod to hipsterdom. Once seated, we reviewed the menu and struggled to narrow it down to just two pies. We finally settled on the Famous Original with tomato, mozzarella, caciocavallo, oregano and chile and the Axl Rosenberg with tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, garlic, jalapeños and mushrooms. No two pies were even close to the same though and Jason informed me the menu is forever shifting based on seasonality. In fact, the reason for the change in menu is thanks to the restaurant’s locally sourced herbs and produce grown as close as their own backyard. The fresh tomatoes and basil don’t go unnoticed and both pies we chose had a bit of a kick to them thanks to the chile and jalapeños I also suspect were grown out back, or in the rooftop garden.

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The crust had a charred wood-flavor and each pie had a fiery finish. The Axl Rosenberg in particular suited my taste as I’m always one to reach for the hot sauce. The spice provided the perfect warmth on an otherwise damp night, similar to tasting whiskey and feeling the slow burning sensation. (The best kind!)

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Jason, who’s quite the at-home pizzaiola himself, said this is a place he often takes out-of-towners thanks to the unique atmosphere and of course the quality pies. And while some of us may be able to pull off a close to perfect replica of the dough, you’d be missing the experience of sitting on a picnic bench in the heart of Brooklyn enjoying “fine hipster Italian dining”.

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Oh, and the t-shirts? They’re great too! Especially one your table mate finds on the chair next to you and kindly asks if its yours. That’s the kind of Brooklyn camaraderie worth leaving your apartment for. You can’t find that at home for simply the cost of ingredients.

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Jamie Miles

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Oscars 2014: The Biggest Pizza Party on Television


With 43 million people watching, the owner of Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria Edgar Martirosyan served the most famous celebrities in Hollywood at the Oscar’s last night. The craziest thing of all? Apparently he had no idea he would appear on a live broadcast of the most watched award show in history let alone serve celebs like Martin Scorsese, Julia Roberts, and Brad Pitt. He was simply told he would be delivering pizza to writers then suddenly found himself on stage with host Ellen DeGeneres passing out greasy slices to glammed up celebs.

“This is the real American dream,” Edgar told Piers Morgan on tonight’s show. Obviously this sort of publicity for any business owner would be an absolute game changer (not to mention the $1,000 tip couldn’t hurt his monthly budget) but excuse me for calling this pizza party stunt out for being in poor taste.

After the slices were passed around (“Harrison, you want some pizza?” Ellen asked), the show cut to commercial then Ellen passed around Pharrell’s hat collecting hundred dollar bills that people like Harvey Weinstein threw around carelessly. Now forgive my sensitivity, but in a room of Prada-clad women and suited up male stars, looking at some of the richest people in the world have an impromptu pizza party where they think of $200 as pocket change for a pizza delivery boy is to me somewhat repulsive.

My greatest source of disappointment however comes from the the pizzeria of choice (Sorry, Edgar!). While I love the spontaneity and the casual concept at a black tie event, the producers could have at least done their research on who to employ. Why give a subpar pizzeria the level of recognition a company would pay over 5 million dollars for if we compare it to a minute and 30-second ad slot? Granted the pizza offerings in L.A. are scarce, but after talking with a few Californians (“Yeah, that’s the joint across the street from Grauman’s. Tourist street trash.”), scanning photos and reading several reviews, I’m convinced that Big Mama’s and Papa’s is far from the best L.A. has to offer.

To be fair, this place is known for its size (maxing out at 36 inches for a pie), and perhaps quality isn’t a focal point, but if it’s anything like one reviewer Adrian Robert said: “Easily one of the most painful and grotesque experiences of my life. Would happily hang myself before ingesting this bile again, no exaggeration at all. Absolutely disgusting!” I’d likely pass just like Leonardo.

A simple search for crowd-sourced reviews on TripAdvisor and write ups in regional city mags pointed me towards at least a handful of better rated pizzas: Pizzeria Mozza, 800 Degrees, Olio, Vito’s, Sotto …Westcoast friends chime in here!

But while the pizza from last night’s show doesn’t look the tastiest (just take a look at their uncensored slices on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean), the visual of spiffy celebs passing slices down the rows of Dolby Theatre made for great TV. Incase you missed it…

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This only leaves me contemplating: Who would I invite to my dream pizza dinner party and what pizza would I serve? Well… that part’s obvious.

Jamie Miles

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Di Fara Pizza

4slices
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
718-258-1367

Many people looking for great New York pizza may not venture outside Manhattan to find it. I’m even guilty of this myself. But after reading flawless reviews of Di Fara’s Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn it was finally time to check this place out. My only regret? Not doing it sooner.

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This past week, Jason Feirman, of the blog I Dream of Pizza, and I headed out to Avenue J to experience the magic of Di Fara’s. The famous pizzeria is run by none other than Dom DeMarco who makes every pie by hand and has been doing it for the last 45(!) years. But DeMarco doesn’t just make pizza, he puts his heart and soul into every pie. Using the finest, freshest ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh hand-pulled mozzarella, grated Parmigiano, fresh basil and only the best Italian olive oil, DeMarco layers the ingredients, cuts the basil by hand and serves each pie with confidence and complete affection.

Jason and I waited only thirty minutes for a classic, plain Margherita pie which was nothing compared to wait times of two hours or more which they’ve been known to have. The space itself was closed for a private party but the take out window was open for business since we made it in time for the 6-8:30 dinner hour.

What ensued was nothing short of life-changing. The first bite was a tantalizing mix of flavors. The thin crust was perfectly cooked and the fresh basil combined with the melted mozzarella, slightly tangy tomato sauce and sprinkled Parmigiano for the most well-balanced bite. Every pie gets a drizzle of olive oil as well which added to the robust flavor — simply mouthwatering to think about even days later.

Get a preview of my first bite of Di Fara’s. Maybe this will better convey just how unbelievably tasty this pizza really is:

People ask me all the time, “What’s your favorite pizza place in New York?” and now it’s easy for me to say I’ve found it. But it’s not just the pizza that makes it my favorite. It’s the experience behind it and the passionate creator who makes this pizza worth coming back for. As Jason put it when we managed to eat an entire pie between the two of us, “No two slices are ever the same.” This is homemade New York pizza that you can’t get just anywhere and I’ve never found anything that has measured up to this.

As you wait for your pie to finish, it’s worth studying DeMarco’s moves. Every step is calculated and every move intentional, and his passion for pizza-making does not go unnoticed by his customers. You truly feel like the pizza you get was made just for you and there’s something special about knowing that the same man that made your pie this once will be the same pizzaiolo who will make it for you next time you are feeling intrepid enough to travel to Midwood for another delicious bite and an authentic New York experience. A pizza from Di Fara’s is truly a gift from DeMarco himself.

Special thanks to Jason for sharing in the adventure with me. Check him out on The Cooking Channel’s Log On & Eat with Eden Grinshpan for another glimpse at what makes Di Fara so delicious.

Until next time!

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Jamie Miles

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Trattoria Dell’Arte

900 7th Avenue3.5slices
New York, NY 10019
212-245-9800

Talk about a carb-tastic meal. Two of my best friends from college (and all of life for that matter) and I got together this past Saturday at Trattoria Dell’Arte for an EPIC Italian dinner.

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We started with a thin crust pepperoni and arugula pie upon recommendation by JB, the neighborhood local among the three of us. His suggestion was warranted as the three of us tore into the pizza leaving not a speck of burrata left on the plate. Yes, burrata. The pie had dollops of my fa-vor-ite cheese which added a nice additional flavor to the already tasty, crisp pizza. The pizza, while not a traditional Neapolitan style and without being baked in a specialty oven, was very good. I loved it as an appetizer but many people around us were having just that with various antipasti plates to complete their meal. It’s worth noting the restaurant has an extensive antipasti bar with over 22 side dishes boasting sicilian eggplant caponata, carmelized fennel, house made mozzarella, assorted olives and more.

In addition to the pizza, we had a Caprese salad to start and proceeded to order individual entrees. What could have been way too much food ended up being a necessary tasting tour as all of our dishes proved supreme. Laila ordered the red snapper baked in a tomato sauce while I ordered the homemade spaghetti carbonara and JB had the tortellini bolognese. But wait. We didn’t even stop there, though we probably should have. We had a delicious bottle of Montepulciano which went perfectly with our meal, from beginning (ohh, that pizza) to the end. The end? A killer melt-in-your-mouth-makes-you-want-to-have-a-Harry-Met-Sally-moment-at-the-table chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream.

Don’t think you’ve heard the last of this place. I’ll certainly be coming back for more. And I doubt I’ll be going alone. JB and Laila, up for seconds?

Jamie Miles

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Sottocasa Pizzeria

298 Atlantic Avenue2.5slices
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
718-852-8758

When I read about Sottocasa being called one of the most underrated pizza spots in New York it added to my budding intrigue, especially since it was on a list with South Brooklyn Pizza which I particularly love, so I made it a point to check it out.

And what better companion would there be than a fellow pizza blogger? Jason Feirman, of the blog I Dream of Pizza, and I had been e-introduced in light of his NYC pizza run and it only made sense to go on a pizza eating expedition together and to a place neither of us had covered so I suggested we try Sottocasa.

Upon arriving, it was clear the restaurant was far from busy — a relief for a hungry pair of pizza lovers. We were seated in the covered outdoor space which was an expansion since the launch of the pizzeria in 2011. The owner, Luca Arrigoni, came to NYC from Milan and previously worked under Neopolitan pizza master Roberto Caporuscio of Kestè, to learn the craft. The idea behind Sottocasa is to not only serve authentic Italian pizza but to make you feel at home as the name itself implies. Sotto is Italian for under, and casa means home, but it’s “less about a physical location and more about a feeling,” the site explains.

Jason and I had to take a break from talking about pizza just to find time to order! We settled on a classic margherita and a tartufata with mozzarella, home-made truffle spread, mushrooms, prosciutto di parma and basil. While I can recognize that Sottocasa is trying to replicate the classic Neapolitan style as served at Kestè, I was a bit disappointed by the crust which was not as thin as I would have enjoyed and a bit doughy. A little bit longer in the oven may have helped or pressing it a bit more to distribute the dough could have remedied the issue but, regardless, I enjoyed the setting which was more laid back and escapist than some other Manhattan pizzerias that seat couples on top of one another. The pizzas are also reasonably priced at $11 for a margherita and $20 for a more elaborately topped pie all cooked in their wood burning oven. Oddly though, the pizzas were cut into 4 slices rather than 6 making it hard for sharing and awkwardly large to hold. The toppings stayed on just fine (as tested by Jason himself) but they were larger than one usually feels comfortable eating. Especially if you want to try a few slices of multiple pies if you’re sharing with a group.

By far the highlight on this pizza trip was in recognizing our shared appreciation for pizza and that it can bring people together. Whether you’re comparing notes on favorite places, sharing stories of not-so-good (or as Jason says, “fine”) pizza, remarking about how amazing it is you’ve been to the same establishments despite them being no where near home (like Jerlando’s in Watkins Glen…) or if you’re learning unknown facts about Pizza Hut not allowing you to take photos of their pizza in raw form, two pizza lovers will always have something to talk about.

Jamie Miles

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An Appetizing Challenge: NYC Pizza Run

This past weekend two unlikely forces combined: Running and pizza. It seems antithetical that this activity would pair with this food (or any food for that matter) but consider your mind blown. On Saturday, strong-stomached participants got together for the 4th annual pizza run organized by pie aficionado Jason Feirman who runs the blog I Dream of Pizza. “In addition to pizza, I love running. And I had an inclination that many New Yorkers felt a similar affinity towards the two. So I decided to combine them into an all encompassing NYC experience! Now it’s four years later and it’s been a great journey so far!” Jason says.

I guess we’re not that dissimilar, he and I, but he’s taken pizza eating to the next level by organizing this 2.25 mile race around Tompkins Square Park. The challenge: Runners must stop at three different pizza checkpoints to grab a slice, down it before continuing the next lap and ideally finish without vomiting. You may be thinking “There’s no money in the world that could get me to run while eating pizza,” but if that’s the case, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Consider the benefits:

Pizza from Manhattan’s Pizza by Certé

An excuse to take a break every .5 miles or so

Cool NYC pizza run t-shirt

The chance to win more free pizza

And, best yet?

The chance to wear the craziest pizza swag you own (which can double as your Halloween costume… just thinking ahead people.)

Check out highlights from the 2013 pizza run—and sign me up for next year!

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Jamie Miles

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Filed under New York, N.Y. Pizza, Pizza Propaganda

Find the Best Pizza Spots in America — An App Will Do the Work!

Think of the services YELP, Zagat or TripAdvisor provide to help you find restaurants nearby that offer certain cuisine you’re searching for. NOW imagine this same service, but with the addition of a smart, data-driven algorithm that only ranks pizza places that have proved worthy after expert reviews. That’s the idea behind the app “Top Pizza Places” which will aggregate reviews that come from bloggers (ahem), pizza aficionados and reputable publications. “Call us pizza snobs, but we give far more credence to reviews written by competent and impartial food critics,” the creators claim.

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It’s not clear just yet how the recommendations will be filtered to best ensure you’re only getting the best-of-the-best, but the idea has me excited. For instance, I just got back from L.A. and while I could have used TripAdvisor or asked around for pizza recs, having an app that finds the best pies nearby would be more efficient since it does the crowd sourcing for you. The app is also said to be searchable by name, location, pizza type, review date and cooking method so if there’s a certain type of pizza you want at that time it’s accessible.

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What’s also cool is users that may not be acclaimed pizza writers like myself (kidding!) can propose a pizza spot be added to the list and their suggestions will be reviewed and considered by the pizza experts on the app’s end.

Don’t get too excited just yet though, the app is still in the process of getting funded. Contribute to the fund here to make this app come to life– or just donate to get the cool t-shirt. The creators have made several apps which are based on geo-location, such as an app to locate nudist colonies or to find any spots on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives”. Naturally, after nudists and diners, pizza would be their next target.

Get on board to help fund their project… because funding a pizza app is basically like community service for the starved.

Jamie Miles

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Filed under Pizza Propaganda