We had so long ago ceded Little Italy to the tourists that it seems almost counter-intuitive to head over to Mulberry Street to eat pasta and pizza and zeppole and the like. And yet, there we were, twice this past week, ordering up a storm from the old-school menu at Rubirosa NYC. Opened in early November by “people with ties to” the famed Joe and Pat’s on Staten Island, the Rubirosa restaurant is a nice, reasonably-priced addition to a neighborhood that hardly needs another dining option, but, you know… we’ll definitely take it.
Rubirosa NYC is, so far, the opposite of sceney. The service is welcoming and casual, the piped-in “party music” is almost laughably cliched and safe (think bad wedding mix: Jackson 5, Chic, etc.), the tables a bit tippy, the space too sprawling and nooky (and uncrowded) to ever reach that feverish sort of pitch so common in this part of town. So while it remains to be seen who is going to fill all of these table-jammed crannies at Rubirosa (out-of-towners stumbling upon some actual good food? hungry foodies tired of waiting on line at the just-up-the-block Torrisi’s? young men with impossible mustaches head-bobbing ironically to Thriller as they munch their pies?) we can be sure of one thing: they will enjoy their meals.
Take Rubirosa’s pasta, for example, all of it freshly made in-house, and cooked firm and chewy. We loved our plate of Pappardelle covered in a chunky sausage ragu and plenty of pecorino, and the festive-looking Ravioli filled with ricotta and squash was almost as good, the dish skillfully avoiding the mushy, too-sweet-ness that is so often its downfall. Our starters have also been satisfying: the special bruschettas–one topped with “scampi style” shrimp and chilies, the other a great combination of sweet, creamy cheese and earthy shrooms–were three-bite beauties, and the mini, cheesy Rice Balls were surprisingly, delightfully subtle for a deep-fried dish featuring mascarpone, prosciutto and fontina. Even the dipping sauce, a simple marinara, was tomato-y and bright, rather than overwhelmed by garlic.
The salads weren’t anything revolutionary, or even revelatory, but if you’re in the mood for a lemony, refreshing, nicely balanced bowel of fennel, cheese and greens you’re sitting in the right restaurant. The cold Seafood salad, too, was solid, the lightly marinated clams, squid, shrimp and octopus mingling freely with crunchy frisee and zingy chilis. The only weak link so far at the Rubirosa restaurant was, surprisingly, the pizza. We ordered the Rubirosa Classic, prepared, apparently in accordance with a 50-year-old family recipe. This wasn’t a bad pie by any means, but the crust was a bit too thin and crackerish for our tastes, the cheese a little too absent. Next time–and there will be a next time–we’re sticking to the pastas…. and the platter of airy Zeppole, dipped in hot fudge, light and chewy and sugary sweet.
Rubirosa Restaurant Details
Rubirosa NYC is located on Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring, on the northern edge of Little Italy. Rubirosa is open from 11:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and until 12:00 midnight on Friday and Saturday. For a look at the mostly-complete menu, please see the Rubirosa menupages page.