Before coming to New York City, I probably would’ve wrinkled my nose at the thought of combining vodka and pizza, but guys…I’m obsessed now.
My first encounter with vodka sauce was when I was strolling through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and noticed that they sold jars of vodka sauce for pasta. I had no idea that that was a thing, but it looked like a creamy tomato sauce, which I had been familiar with and loved. I bought it, cooked up some pasta at home, and ate it all up. For those of you who might be curious, no, it doesn’t taste like vodka. It just tastes like really, really good tomato sauce. The sauce is made with tomatoes, herbs, heavy cream, and vodka, which is added specifically to release certain flavors in the tomato (like how wine is used in other dishes) and to act as an emulsifier so that the oil of the cream and the acid of the tomato don’t separate. This is serious business, you guys! It’s not there just for giggles!
The next big moment in my–shall I call it–relationship with vodka sauce was when I heard about a place called Rubirosa that made amazing vodka sauce pizza. Rubirosa is this lovely, intimate Italian restaurant that I probably would’ve wanted to visit anyways had I not heard that, but now there was even more reason to get myself over there.
After a movie at Sunshine Cinema, my mom and I headed to Rubirosa for a late dinner. The space was dimly lit, quite romantic, and still totally packed that far into the evening. We ordered the caprese salad to start, what else but the vodka pizza, and then my mom, being the spaghetti lover that she is, also got the spaghetti alla chitarra with meatballs.
The caprese is served as thick cuts of mozzarella with slices of tomato and basil leaves in between and some basil pesto in the dish. You know what I like to have as an appetizer before a cheesy entree? You got it. Cheese. I was really waiting on the edge of my seat for the pizza though. At first glance, it looks fairly average, if not something that I would scoff at and be like, “Too much sauce, not enough cheese.” But then I took a bite. One bite and I knew that this was going to be one of my favorite pizza places in the entire city. It’s really a testament to how amazing and flavorful the sauce is that I could eat a pizza with such thin crust and only a few blobs of fresh mozzarella here and there and want to devour it all. It looks and sounds too simple to be anything out of the ordinary, but they’ve really nailed the proportions and ingredients to make something great.
Because we gobbled up all the caprese and pizza, we could only take a few bites of the pasta before having to call it quits and take the rest home. Fine with me since a bowl of that for lunch at work beats a sandwich from home any day!
Word to the wise: When you order pizza here, you can get it half and half/with two different kinds of toppings. I learned that afterwards, but even if I would’ve known then, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about my order because I simply can’t get enough of that vodka pizza.
Rubirosa has had their thin-crust pizza recipe for 55 years, and while I can’t speak to how it tasted back then, I can say that it’s worth the praise today. And before you go, can we all just acknowledge my mom’s zebra shirt in the back of the pizza shot? Yup.
Caprese salad, vodka pizza, spaghetti alla chitarra with meatballs
235 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10012