I've been eyeing the Roberta's Cookbook sitting in a stack of cookbooks on my kitchen counter for a few weeks now. I've never been to Roberta's, a pizza restaurant located in a cement bunker somewhere in Brooklyn. But Roberta's legend is far-reaching and I've certainly heard of the joint, probably first through a podcast from Heritage Radio Network, which broadcasts shows about food and other cool things.
So without even cracking the cover, this book is already getting interesting (pizza, cement bunkers, food radio!) But can a cookbook from a pizza parlor far, far away have a place in my Oakland, California kitchen — or in anyone's kitchen for that matter?
• Who wrote it: Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock
• Who published it: Clarkson Potter
• Number of recipes: 110
• Recipes for right now: Beets with Creme Fraiche, Bottarga, Dill; Apple with Burrata, Sorrel, Honey; Treviso with Gran Blu di Bufala, Vin Cotto; Lamb Carbonara; Pici (pig tail ragu); Octopus with Black Garlic, Treviso; Poulet Rouge with Cabbage, Turnip, Black Radish; Split Pea Soup with Benton's Bacon; Gingerbread with Quince.
• Other highlights: Well, Brooklyn and Oakland are rumored to have some kind of affinity — certainly the caption for Roberta's on Google Maps is a hint ("Hipster Italian Dining") so it's not surprising that I found this to be a delightful book. Part cookbook, part restaurant creation story and chockfull of color photographs of people having a wildly good time, there's no doubt that Roberta's Cookbook offers plenty of bedtime reading. But is it loyal to its original purpose, stated right there on the cover? Is it a cookbook and could a mere mortal cook from it in their everyday kitchen?
I think so. You may not whip up most of these dishes after returning home from a long day at the office but all of these recipes are doable in a home kitchen, especially if you are someone who is into cooking. The section Pizza is a great example. The authors address the fact straight-on that it's likely you won't duplicate their wood-fired oven pizza at home (unless you have a wood-fired oven, of course) but you can make really good pizza. And then they proceed to devote several pages to explaining how it's done, followed by recipes for eleven of their most favorite pizzas.
While Roberta's got their start as a pizza place, they also offer Italian-inspired food. Salads, pastas, vegetables, and meat and fish dishes are represented in the book, with varying degrees of complexity. Some you will make in half an hour; some will simmer all afternoon on the back of your stove. People outside of larger metropolises such as NYC may have a hard time finding some of the ingredients called for but it's worth a look at the book to gauge just how challenging this will be for you. As a dedicated, enthusiastic cook, I don't see this as a problem but I understand that this may not be the case for everyone.
The book ends with a few dessert and cocktail recipes and some discussion of their rooftop garden. There's a short list of sources and an index rounds out the offerings. The book itself has a rich, deep red cloth cover with gold embossed lettering (no paper cover.) It's got a sturdy, sewn binding to withstand lots of time in the kitchen which it is where you will likely find my copy of this bold, occasionally irreverent but ultimately inspiring cookbook. Soon to be spattered with tomato sauce and bristling with notes, I suspect!
• Who would enjoy this book? Fans of Roberta's, of course, but people who have never been and like to cook innovative, ingredient-driven recipes should take a look, too, as well as any anyone who really enjoys making making kick-ass pizza at home. Sure, there's a recipe for making your own homemade fresh mozzarella which may be too obsessive for most. But for those of us who enjoy such a challenge, it's just about the right level of geekiness to keep us happy.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Roberta's Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock
• Visit the author's website: Roberta's
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image credits: Dana Velden)