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Apr 11, 2012 12:07 PM

ROBERTO'S. (Bx) .any recent reports?

I've been to Robertos' quite a few times, and always had a good meal there, but the last time was more than 2 years ago. Friends have suggested a weekday dinner in the neighborhood and this has always been my standby in the area.

Any comments or favorite dishes based on recent meals?

For those who have visited both, how do you compare the original restaurant with the non-pizza offerings at Trattoria 089 (AA)?

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  1. The place gets very crowded. The mussels marinara were tasteless. The spaghetti in foil was very salty and the sauce was watery. Dominick's had much better food

    3 Replies
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      Pretty depressing news! How long ago did you suffer that meal?

      We go early for dinner on a non-game day so the crowd should not be an issue...

      Have you been to 089?

      1. re: erica

        It's been a few years since my trip to Roberto's, but an underwhelming experience--crowded, noisy, rushed, with un-memorable and surprisingly sloppy food. Not cheap, and certainly not worth a return. 089 has very good pizza, salads, and an excellent eggplant parm. Pastas are good, too, but more variable, in a kitschy but cheery "piazza" atmosphere. Don't overlook Enzo's nearby for well done I-A specialities in a friendly space.

        1. re: erica

          I was there in November,2011, I dont knod to go to w 089, Dominick's had some good giant meatballs. I used to go to The Pawlding, also The Pines.

      2. We ended up at Roberto's. The restaurant was empty at 6pm on a Tuesday (non-Yankee-game)night, but filled up by 7pm.

        Four of us shared two appetizers from the paper menu--the Grilled Scamorza (this had been a personal favorite but this time it lacked the char which had added interesting texture around the edges and on the bottom) and the grilled squid (mostly bodies; several pieces dried out; not very good; the dish listed shrimp and squid but I had the shrimp removed when I learned that they used headless, assumed to be pre-frozen, farmed shrimp).

        We ordered three dishes from the specials menu:

        House-made long pasta (sorry cannot recall the name but it began with "M") in cartoccio, with fava, artichokes, mozzarella di bufala. The noodle had superb taste and texture and the sauce was delicious. The best dish of the evening. Generous size, allowed a decent size tasting portion for 4 people.

        Veal Scallopine with Speck and roasted tomatoes. Flavors were good enough but veal was not tender.

        Soft Shell Crab. Two medium-sized crabs; heavy butter and parsley sauce. Served with sauteed spinach on toast.

        Dessert: One Tiramisu and one Grana Cheesecake (with whole wheat crust, ricotta shot with lots of orange rind). Both house made and both good but not good enough to be worth the calories.

        House Aglianico by the glass was good; with two glasses of wine and two espressi, the bill totalled about $55 per person including tip. Plenty of pretty good food at a fair price, but I will not rush back anytime soon. Service was cordial and welcoming. Roberto did not appear to be on the premises.

        Prior to dinner I completed my usual shopping rounds. Each time I visit this neighborhood I am more impressed with the offerings in the food shops.

        Worth the trip to the Bronx alone is the fresh pasta at Borgatti Ravioli, and nicer folks you will not find. Calandra Cheese was closed by 5:15, so I bought my fresh ricotta at Casa della Mozzarella this time, and was delighted to find that they also stock the outstanding Pecorino Calabrese encased in a peperoncino-crusted rind.

        Teitel (best pricing on DOP San Marzanos) has Flott Ventresca (packed in olive oil, not extra virgin olive oil, but at $6.99 a can, a real bargain!) And let's not forget the biscotti and multi-grain loaves at Madonia.

        Where else but Arthur Avenue (and ok, a few specialty grocers) can you find bags of he ancient chick-pea-like legume, cicherchie? (I first tried this in Puglia and have been a fan ever since)

        Last stop on this very brief shopping tour: Tony and Tina's on 189th and Arthur Avenue. Don't know about their pizza but I can vouch for their burek--both cheese and pumpkin. Both keep a few days in the frig and also freeze fairly well.

        18 Replies
        1. re: erica

          Thanks for your report--Roberto's pasta special sounds light years more interesting than those we had on our last visit, when they were all big platters of coarsely made cliches. Your pasta might have been mafalde, which is a ribbon form with a little curly edge, or a long, rolled "maccheroni" or fusilli. Anyway--the food shopping does get better and better, and not just because of the sheer number of shops. It's really hard to find so many well-made items, form bread and Borgatti's incomparable pasta, to good fish and carefully butchered meats, in any one single nabe. Love it, miss it.

          1. re: bob96

            Bob: It was not mafalde; they were uneven strands but not with a rolled edge. Long name with an "M." Looked like a variation of laganare. It is driving me crazy; I've looked in all my Italian food glossaries and may have to call them to ask.

            I forgot to mention the great DRIED imported pastas at Borgatti; they have lots of shapes from Giuseppe Cocco, from Abruzzo, priced at below $4. And Teitel has that brand, as well as the Gragnanese, in so many different shapes! I counted at least 3 variations of fusilli alone, from one company. Teitel also carries the bagged, fresh pasta "I Sapori del Vallo," from Cilento.
            Some of these imported pastas sell for close to $10 a bag in fancy gourmet stores in the Metro area. Every single retail person we encountered was, as always, very helpful and friendly. Block for block, it has to be the best food shopping in the city.

          2. re: erica

            Went this past Sunday and one of us at our table also ordered what sounds like the same fava bean pasta. It did start with an "M." Mezzesomething, I think. There was a conversation about the name in our group since it was unfamiliar, and as it was translated for me by a dining companian (sorry, I can't remember the details) was pretty nonsensical. I thought it was the best thing we had, but it was all quite good. All four pastas we tried were stand outs, while the entrees were a bit less memorable (though that could have been the wine taking effect at that point).

            For what it's worth, one of the people in our party has a pretty extensive background in Italian cuisine who guided our ordering a bit. He seemed to like the whole meal, and enjoyed speaking Italian with those in the staff who weren't Albanian.

            I've tried Domenick's and Roberto's both now, and have enjoyed both. But I think anyone who says they prefer Domenick's must REALLY like red sauce... a lot.

            1. re: Mr Porkchop

              Now a dining "Campanian" might have known about that pasta! (ok, bad...sorry!!) Maybe they made up the name, since I looked at the lists of several Gragnano ( town near Naples famous for pasta manufacture) pasta companies and could not find it. I agree with you about the pastas being the standout and the secondi being missable. At least that was my experience the other night.

              1. re: Mr Porkchop

                I love red sauce, but i also love other sauces. Dominick's does make a good red sauce, so does The Pines.. The problem I had with Roberto's is the lack of sauce. Especially in the pasta with red sauce cooked in foil on the grill ( cartoccio).

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  I think that Roberto's adheres more to the style in Italy, where the sauce if used only as a condiment, in much lesser amounts than is common in many Italian-American restaurants in the US.

                  Here, for example, are two pastas with tomato sauce that I had not long ago in Italy; the first, in Calabria, features nduja, while the second, in Puglia, features a simple fresh pasta with tomato sauce and bread crumbs. Maybe the amounts of tomato look skimpy in comparison to "red sauce" pastas served at many eateries here.

                  1. re: erica

                    Mystery solved. Happened to be nearby today, and went in and asked the waiter. It's mezzanelle, or, as he described it, a shortened fresh linguine. Probably resembles one of the various scialatelli shapes from the owner's Salerno, but more likely is a simple diminutive term like "halfsies". The dish, with fave, peas, and mozzarella, comes off the menu this week.
                    Reporting live from Belmont.

                    1. re: erica

                      Those dishes look delicious. I don't think the sauce looks skimpy.

                2. re: erica

                  A solid thumbs-up to Tony & Tina's pumpkin burek...and to your "erica" signpost...trying to figure out where it is, guessing Puerto Rico.

                  BTW, did you need a reservation @ Roberto's?

                  1. re: Mike R.

                    Mike: If you can guess, you are VERY good! Not Puerto Rico. Hint: Different continent.

                    Bob: Will put in a word about a promotion to lead detective! Very good sleuthing on your part!
                    Thank you. I must say that it was very good pasta.

                    1. re: erica

                      OK, here goes: Based on the profile, I initially wanted to say somewhere in Spain or Portugal (& BTW, just may get to Seville next spring so your posts will be quite valuable!)...however, that's a B&B/Hotel sign and this is a thread about Italian restaurants, pasta specials and CHEESE bureks, so I'm putting my $$$ on the Hotel Erica - Asiago, Italy.

                      Did Roberto's or Arthur Avenue goods remind you of anything you had there?

                      1. re: Mike R.

                        Different continent! HInt: Identify the plant with the same name.

                        That pasta at Roberto's did remind me of house-made fresh pasta I've had in Italy. But the veal and the crabs, not at all. The crabs had a sauce that might have been made with lemon, butter, wine, parsley, but the heaviness of it made it unlike the seafood preparations I've had in coastal Italy.

                        But the stores, on the other hand, do remind me of Italy with one big difference. I don't have to struggle with the language! Inch for inch, AA has to be the best food shopping neighborhood in the city.

                        1. re: erica

                          Am I seeing a wild, bitter green somewhere in northern Puglia?

                          1. re: bob96

                            Ok, you both deserve an A for effort! From the wine country of the Western Cape in South Africa:


                            I think wild boar is the game-iest meat I've seen on Italian menus. But apparently, kangaroo and ostrich and even reindeer once made their appearances on some menus, according to this article:


                            1. re: erica

                              Thanks--even some light googling connected "rucola" (eruca) to an agriturismo/hotel in the Gargano called Erica, so I jumped. I saw and almost followed a SA link to I think that hotel....
                              Now, back to my own life:).

                              1. re: erica

                                Holy crow - missed the continent, but fondly recall my 2010 Cape Winelands drive around Stellenbosch (did 6 vineyards in one day, dinner at Bukhara)...and the luscious ostrich, warthog (more porky than cinghiale) and springbok triple-treat wood-oven fired dinner in Oudtshoorn.

                                There is Italian food aplenty in the Southern Hemisphere. But I've gotta get myself back up to Arthur Avenue in a hurry.

                            2. re: erica

                              Putting (researched) 2 'n' 2 together, the terrain looks similar to that in old grainy 1960s episodes of "Skippy" (the Bush Kangaroo)...getting closer?

                              If Roberto's was adventurous and had a "game" menu, I bet they could work wonders with Italian adaptations of ostrich, venison and 'roo. Something I don't believe happens anywhere in the Arthur Avenue cluster.

                        2. re: Mike R.

                          Roberto's does not take reservations. Waits can be long. Go early for dinner.