Roberto’s Restaurant is an Arthur Avenue staple. I don’t dine on Arthur Ave all that often. Mostly I just go stand in line for 3 hours for the best mozzarella you will ever have and I take my mozzarella and leave. But we were looking to do something a little out of the box with friends from the city and the Bronx seemed like a good half way point. And people rave about Arthur Ave food saying ‘it doesn’t get better than this.” And to be fair, anything I have ever had on this block in the Bronx has been phenomenal. (hence the 3 hour wait for cheese.) I knew the wait for a table would be long and I was right. We waited for over 2 hours in a cold, crowded bar area that felt more like we were in a cattle corral. Roberto’s, like many Arthur Avenue establishments, is closed on Sundays & does not accept reservations. So waiting is just something you have to do when you want to come here.
We ordered a glass of house Chianti while we waited and it tasted…how can I say this? Ahh- cheap! We finally sat down and started with a few appetizers for the table. A fairly standard plate of fresh mozzarella from Casa Della Mozzarella (the 3 hour wait for cheese place!) Prosciutto di Parma and house roasted peppers and an order of breaded eggplant and zucchini layered with cheese- basically it was eggplant, zucchini parmesan. Both were goo, but the eggplant dish won in flavor. I had a gripe with the antipasti platter. The cheese was was too cold and anyone who knows fresh mozzarella knows it should be served at room temperature. This mozzarella came from Casa della Mozzarella where they even tell you, “IF you need to refrigerate it, (I never do) be sure you take it out in enough time to be able to serve it at room temp.” Why why would a restaurant of this caliber be serving ice cold mozzarella on Arthur Avenue of all places? It lost all its flavor. The meat was perfectly sliced, not too salty, and the peppers were okay. But it was nothing you couldn’t make at home with a quick trip to the deli.
Next we moved on entrees and I would say only one entree blew anyone away and that was the half rabbit. It was delicious. Here is the thing about Arthur Ave- everything is usually really, really fresh. Its one of the only places you can still go and buy rabbit or a whole lamb from a butcher. And trust me, if you get grossed out by flesh hanging in a window- I recommend staying away from this particular area because it abounds with old fashioned butchers who carry just about anything you can think of and hang it in the window. Thats the beauty of it for a home cook married to a European hunter. (thats me, btw!) So I told Brett, if you want rabbit, now is the time to get it and he did just that. It was perfect. Light, seasoned to perfection and fresh.
A quick summery of the remaining entrees: An oversized fried chicken cutlet topped with unripe chopped tomato and a small dot of cheese, a spicy chicken dish that had no spice at all and a chicken breast that looked boiled and not at all sauteed smothered with cheese and the smallest dollop of red sauce I have ever seen for someone who asked for a recommendation of a chicken dish with a red sauce. Seriously, Robertos?
Dessert was made up of cappuccinos, tartufo & tiramisu. All quite good. But not enough for me to ever wait 2 hours again to go back.
Casa della Mozzarella down the street though? Oh, I’ll be back and I will wait on your line and I promise not to serve my guests your cheese ice cold!