Rubirosa Pizza Sign

Rubirosa

I love the West Coast with its open spaces, towering mountains, and bounty of fresh produce year round. But when it comes to pizza, the East Coast steals my heart; especially New York’s five boroughs. So when visiting, I can’t resist taking to the streets in search of the perfect pizza pie. This time, my quest has brought me to Nolita (North of Little Italy) – a neighborhood long considered part of New York City’s Little Italy which has lost much of its Italian character in recent decades due to the migration of Italian-Americans out and yuppies in. From the outside, Rubirosa looks like many other ristorantes decorated with the colors of the Italian flag.
Inside, however, Rubirosa is more modern than those old school Italian joints; sporting a warm, European palace meets mountain cabin feel. The vibe comes from low lighting, wooden chairs and tables opposite a looong wooden bar and a copper ceiling rimmed with ornately decorated copper trim.
The crowd is young, hip, urban…and me. There’s lots of lively conversation swirling about mixing with mellow rock tunes decidedly not Italian.

I started my meal, as I start all good meals with a draught beer. Rubirosa has some nice craft beer options. I opted for a Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues for $7. I’ve had Dale’s at Oskar Blues in Colorado which ran me about $5 but I guess when you add shipping plus New York City, $7 sounds about right. Still, it left me wondering when did a good beer become as expensive as a cheap glass of wine?

And Dale’s is a good beer; amber-gold in color with a full-bodied rich flavor and a great bitter finish that lingered in my mouth like a roasted hoppy kiss. (Please don’t ask how I know what a roasted hoppy kiss tastes like. It was an experimental phase in college.) Anyway, my delicious beer arrived with two pieces of equally delicious Italian bread; a crusty exterior with a porous center which perfectly soaked up the full flavored olive oil. A match made in Italian heaven.

I began my meal in earnest with an arugula salad loaded with red and golden beets and topped with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette for $11.

My bowl ‘O salad, big enough for two, was loaded with lots of fresh-flavorful arugula sitting atop beets which were cooked perfectly; thankfully not watery. It was topped with creamy goat cheese and the perfect amount of balsamic which added just a touch of sweetness. Each bite left me wanting more and embodied the Italian cooking philosophy of making simple food simply. Still, being a lily guilder, I can’t help but wonder how some roasted pignolias on top would have tasted.

As I was enjoying my salad, my pizza arrived. It looked like a work of art but see if by looking at the picture you can guess why my first reaction was, UH OH.
Danger! Danger! ARUGULA overload. When I ordered my arugula, cherry tomato, pecorino, eggplant and balsamic vinaigrette glaze pizza for $19, it hadn’t occurred to me (nor to my waitress apparently) that I was ordering my salad on a pizza. Maybe with the tomato, pecorino and eggplant, it would taste different.
Maybe not. The pizza had some highlights but some low lights too. The flavor was good and I enjoyed the technique of topping it with big slices of pecorino as a way to add cheese without overloading it. The crust was nice and thin but could have been crispier. My least favorite part of this pizza was a cloying sweetness that could have come from the tomato sauce but tasted more like it was from the balsamic glaze. With the ups and downs the best I could give this pizza is a B+. For some extra credit, I thought maybe the right wine would help to mellow the sweetness of the pizza.
The wine list is loaded with Italian options and the waitress allowed me to taste a couple of options. A Nebiolllo (one of my favorites) and an ’09 Velenosi Rosso Picento DOC Mentelpulciano/Sangiovese – Marche $9. I chose the latter hoping its hint of sweetness would mellow the sweetness of the pizza. It did…a little.

Rubirosa suffers from the same affliction I’ve experienced at many New York Restaurants. The inattentiveness of young under-informed servers that leaves you feeling slightly neglected. It was great to get a taste of a couple of wines but after an initial how is everything, my waitress was a ghost to my table. If you’re looking for an above average pizza and a hip crowd, check out Rubirosa. As for me, I know this is not the best pizza the East Coast has to offer so it’s back to the streets to continue my search. Stay tuned…

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

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Bryant Park Grill Exterior

Bryant Park Grill

If you find yourself hungry in Midtown Manhattan and you want to treat yourself to an excellent meal, don’t go to Bryant Park Grill.
It’s easy to be tempted. The Internet is full of positive reviews. Concierges like mine at The Hyatt Grand Central highly recommend the place. The location in Bryant Park is fantastic with great views from inside where large windows offer front row seats to a parade of humanity strolling by.

And the interior is bright and airy BUT Bryant Park Grill charges for location, location, location without providing food with flavor, flavor, flavor.

The problems began with their beer selection: Budweiser, Coors, Heineken and Corona. I expect generic mass produced beers when I’m traveling on a plane but I haven’t heard a selection this bad in a well regarded restaurant since the 80′s. How about a local beer? How about some craft beers? How about more variety? Or how about switching to wine?

Sadly, with Ménage à Trois, Chalone, Folie à Deux, Jacobs Creek, etc…, the wine was only a marginal improvement over the beer. I’m not saying these wines are bad but I am saying they’re $8 Trader Joes drink-at-home-when-you-don’t-care wines, not I want a nice glass of wine chosen by a sommelier who knows more about wines than I. Still, I was in the mood for something so I tried a wine I was unfamiliar with; An ’09 Ca’ Donini Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio for $9. It was fruity and simple and lost me at bonjourno. I was hoping the food would make up for the beverages.
  I started with a white bean vegetable soup with aged Vermont cheddar garnished with a green onion puree for $8.50. With chunks of veggies and beans It looked good. It wasn’t. The vegetables were DOA, lying dormant in a flavorless watery grave. No fresh herbs detectable. What little taste there was had a diluted V8 quality to it. Their secret stock perhaps? This soup was so bad not even Campbell’s would put their label on it.
Oh look! Both my dishes are here at the same time. YIPEE! Great job Bryant Park Grill. Now I can choke down my flavorless soup as my entree sinks toward room temperature. Instead, I pushed my gruel aside and put all my faith on my entrée.

Vegan stir fried curry quinoa for $17.50 with wild mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, serrano chili peppers, English peas and grilled eggplant. I appreciate they offered a tasty sounding vegan option but…whomever plated the dish must have learned their presentation skills at a soup kitchen where glopping the food on the plate earns you volunteer of the month.

A mountain of unappetizing quinoa dominated the plate with a few veggies fleeing over the side. 70% of the plate must have been quinoa, which was waterlogged, with one piece of overcooked eggplant, 4 pieces of wilted asparagus, some grilled iceberg, a few peas and not a wild mushroomn nor flavor of serrano in sight.
If you have no taste buds, love being charged inflated New York prices instead of served good food or think the quality of their vegetarian offerings will in no way reflect their meat dishes, then head on in to Bryant Park Grrrrrrill.

Bryant Park Grill
25 W 40th St  New York, NY 10018
(212) 840-6500

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