At some point in your life, maybe after years of squawking through clarinet lessons, or having pivot tables explained to you for the 17th time, you realize there are just some things you’re better at than others. The truly revolutionary moment comes when you make peace with the fact that you’re never going to understand Excel.
Roberta’s, an NYC restaurant with a West Coast location at Platform in Culver City, serves truly fantastic pizza. But pizza is also the thing this place should stick to.
If the name Roberta’s sounds familiar, that’s not (only) because it was your grandmother’s middle name - this is the restaurant that opened 10 years ago in a warehouse in Brooklyn and spawned a million other copycats. Since then, Roberta’s has become a household name for people who have strong opinions about ideal crust texture and spend too much time thinking about whether deep dish counts as pizza. If you’ve ever had spicy honey on a slice, it’s probably because of this place.
The obvious next step in Roberta’s quest for world domination was opening a location in Los Angeles - although it’s a little odd that they decided to do so in a fancy mall in Culver City. Watching people leave a Soulcycle while you eat is a slightly different, slightly less exciting experience than dinner in a Bushwick warehouse.
While the LA space might be pretty different from the NYC original, the pizza here is just as worthy of its fame. It’s dark and blistered, with chewy crusts and excellent toppings that never overload the slice. Simple options like the margherita, bee sting, and something called the Cheesus Christ all taste exactly like you imagined when you were daydreaming about pizza at 4pm this afternoon. There are also usually a few less-traditional pizzas on the menu, like the garlic-loaded Lil’ Stinker or a little-too-dry porchetta pie. Despite occasional misfires, if you come to Roberta’s for a couple of pizzas and a bottle of wine, you’ll have a great time.
But Roberta’s also serves salumi, vegetables, pastas, and entrees, and mostly, they’re just not up to the very high standards of those pies. Some dishes are interesting, like a smoky wood roasted cabbage, some are inconsistent, like the beef carpaccio that can be incredible one visit, bland the next, and tasty again a third time. And some things should have stayed in the kitchen, like the over-salted porchetta. Service, too, can be up and down - although great and friendly on our first visit, at our meals since, it was more forgetful and pretty inattentive.
All of that just leaves us wondering why, if we could decide to leave the clarinet behind, they can’t give up all the things that are bringing them down. Roberta’s feels like less of a revelation than it should, but at least we no longer have to travel to a warehouse in Bushwick to eat this pizza.
It says a lot about both Roberta’s (and us) that we think this bread and butter is the best dish here. The bread is basically just un-topped pizza dough, the butter is made in-house and is an argument for making all dairy products in-house, and you get a few anchovies on the side. Don’t skip this.
We’ve had this dish every time we’ve been to Roberta’s and it’s been different every time, ranging from “best carpaccio we’ve had” to tasteless and boring. When it’s good it’s very good, but $20 is a lot to gamble on something that could end up disappointing.
It’s fresh and tangy, with an everything bagel-style crumb on top. This is a good thing to get to break up an all-pizza dough dinner.
Generally, we stick to cabbage as a taco topping, but this is a good argument to branch out. The best non-pizza option here, it’s smoky and served with a cod brandade sauce we’d spoon out of a bowl on its own.
The pastas change regularly and are mostly uninteresting. The cacio e pepe and carbonaras are both pretty standard versions of these classics, although if the gigli with little neck clams is on the menu, it’s a good, garlicky bet.
There are usually four or so meats in this section, and mostly, you can skip them. The porchetta is so salty we couldn’t eat it, the wagyu chuck steak is fine, but uninteresting. If you insist on a piece of protein, the braised oxtail is your best bet - it comes with horseradish shaved on top, herby breadcrumbs, and a tasty tomato sauce.
Yes, spicy honey on top of a pepperoni pizza is as good as everyone says.
Anything with an ingredient listed as “double garlic” is a thing we’re going to order. The peppers, cheeses, and red onion balance out all the stinkiness for a very good, simple pizza.
It’s a white, cheesy pizza. A good, blistery, cheesy pizza.