The Roberta’s Interview

Photo: Roberta's
Photo: Roberta's

Ask 100 people where to get a good slice in New York and you’ll get 100 different answers. Ask the same 100 people where to get a great slice in New York, and at least a quarter of the answer pool will be narrowed down to a three-syllable response: Roberta’s.

The Bushwick pizza empire first opened its doors back in 2008, and has since then earned its weight in dough. They’ve served up pizza to the Bill and Hillary Clinton, set up a rooftop garden for sourcing fresh and unique ingredients, and keep a nice waitlist that, on certain evenings, is rumored to snake all the way back to the subway station from which hoards of pizza-hungry visitants emerge.

In celebration of the most often recommended pizza joint in New York right now, and out of sweet memory of our Pizza Issue‘s release party held there this past Thursday night, we got Brandon Hoy of Roberta’s on the line to serve us up some history on their operation, what their growth the last nine years has been like, and how they’d go about throwing the greatest pizza party on the face of the Earth.

You guys have some of the best pizza in all of NYC. Some may argue it’s the best in all of the country. Maybe a few would say the world. What would you say has been Roberta’s secret ingredient to being held in such high regard over the years?

Passion and pride. By never cutting corners and always staying fresh. We are in constant R&D mode—always trying to make the product better.

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You guys have been around for coming up on 10 years now. How were the early days at Roberta’s? Was there a year or two where things really took off?

The first few years we were a local’s joint supported by Bushwick and East Williamsburg communities. The times were unique. We where mostly serving people we knew, friends, neighbors and local weirdos. It was great.

By year three, we where in full swing and attracting people from all over New York. Now we see people from all over the world. It’s truly amazing. We would have never created this kind of momentum without the help of those people who supported us in the early days—the true pioneers.

What’s your most popular pie and how many do you estimate you serve per month?

It was the Margherita forever. And we served a bunch of them. Now, the Famous Original gives it a run for its money. I estimate we sell lots of them.

While we haven’t found ourselves up there yet, we’ve been told you source many of your ingredients from a rooftop garden. Is this true, and who manages the garden?

We source a fair amount from our garden. Mostly hard-to-find and unique items. Melissa Metrick is our gardener and he does a great job working with the chefs and finding things that live outside the box.

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Can you explain to us the origin of the “Tiki Disco Party” at Roberta’s?

I can, but the legend is probably greater then the truth. Let’s just say that we are friends with Andy, Lloyd and Eli. The first few parties were only a handful of people, but I assure you those were some of the craziest.

We hear there’s a radio station also housed within the restaurant’s walls in a secret room? Is there any truth to this, and if so, how can we tune in?

Heritage Radio Network!

Let’s say Roberta’s is selected to host one of the greatest pizza parties the face of the Earth (besides the one happening there this Thursday). You can choose one musician/band to play, one comedian to jibe with everyone throughout the party, and anyone one person throughout history to give a speech prior to everyone stuffing their faces with Bee Stings. Who is your A-Team?

Wow. It’s incredibly hard to choose just one band, but if I had to it would be The Roots. And this is why: we cherish an eclectic and diverse array of music. I feel like The Roots can channel that from hip-hop to rock and everywhere in-between. Dave Chapelle because he’s funny. For the speech, I would have to go with Coach Vince Lombardi. Every great party needs a great motivational speech. Get’m ready to WIN.

Keep up with our favorite slice in New York via the Roberta’s Pizza Instagram. If you’d like a second slice of conversation regarding pizza empires, check out our interview with the founder of Papa John’s.