Few restaurants embody the ethos of the Brooklyn artisan movement as thoroughly as Roberta’s, which has established itself as the de facto clubhouse of local-food obsessives, urban beekeepers, rooftop farmers, and the like since 2008. So like many people, we were both surprised and kind of excited to see the Bushwick pie-slingers shilling frozen pizzas at the new Whole Foods in Gowanus, alongside 200 other local food purveyors—gypsy brewer Evil Twin, Van Leeuwen ice cream, Mama O’s kimchi—that created exclusive products for the store.
We wondered how the Roberta’s pies—always excellent at the restaurant and pop-up stalls at various food festivals—would stand up as a packaged product, so we trekked to Gowanus to pick up one of the frozen Margherita pizzas ($11.99). According to Zagat, the pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven in Roberta’s backyard, then blast-chilled in the kitchen at adjacent restaurant Blanca.
We followed the instructions on the package and cooked the pizza at 450°F on a baking sheet. We left the pizza in the oven for 6½ minutes, because the instructions said, “Cook for 5½ minutes. If you like it crispier, cook it longer,” and we do like our pizza extra crispy.
So, what did we think about Roberta’s frozen pie?
The sauce tasted like it was made with high-quality tomatoes. It’s not sweet, and has good acidity.
Texture/flavor of mozzarella
We could see droplets of solidified oil on the mozz before it was cooked. After cooking the pizza, the mozzarella was milky and flavorful. It tasted homemade.
The crust was thin and it crisped up nicely in the oven, but it lacked the airiness and rise of a freshly made Roberta’s pie.
Charring on crust
The cornicione had beautiful leopard spotting/charring while it was still frozen and in the package. That beautiful char, an obvious mark of wood-fired oven, provided tons of flavor to the cooked pie.
Sea salt added flavor, and there were just a few small leaves of basil scattered amidst the cheese.
How is it similar/different to regular Roberta’s?
Essentially, Roberta’s frozen margherita pizza tasted like you brought a pizza home from Roberta’s, put it in the fridge, then heated it up in the oven the next day. Although, reheated restaurant pizza—even Roberta’s—typically suffers from a soggy crust situation. The Roberta’s frozen pizza crust, on the other hand, was ideally crisp—just not as doughy nor thick as the restaurant version.
Would we buy it again?
Listen, we live in NYC, which means we can hop on the train and be at Roberta’s in a half an hour, tops. If you live in or near Brooklyn, why would you pay $11.99 for a Roberta’s frozen pizza from Gowanus if you can travel to the restaurant and have a superior non-frozen pie for the same price? At the end of the day, $12 Roberta’s frozen pizza only really makes sense for people in other cities who don’t have access to Roberta’s.
It seems that the decision to roll out Roberta’s frozen pies was either just a marketing ploy to fully Brooklynize the Gowanus Whole Foods opening, or it’s a trial run for a broader launch. We can only hope Roberta’s will start selling its frozen pizza in grocery stores nationwide.