By now, everyone’s heard of Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick. Even the Clintons stopped by for a bite last September. The pizzas, made in a wood-burning oven, feature delectable toppings like house-made pork sausage, herbs grown in the restaurant’s rooftop garden, and quality cheeses like tallegio and crucolo on a crust that’s both pillowy and crispy. The desserts at Roberta’s, on the other hand, are hit and miss.
Pastry chef Katy Peetz‘s strong suit is her creativity, displayed with wild abandon in the kitchen. From chamomile gelato and cherry hyssop semifreddo to tomatillo cornbread and cinnamon sugar corn nuts, Peetz is not afraid of playing with flavors. But that impulse became problematic with the dessert we tasted this week, an odd mix of chocolate gelato, chestnuts, lime curd, grapefruit, and coconut. Altogether there was too much competition for attention and not enough meshing to make this combination work. The coconut was lost completely, the chestnut barely there, and the chocolate a minor player pushed aside instead of complemented by the citrus.
The lime was by far the dominant flavor, and not in the way of a refreshing key lime pie. Combined with the grapefruit, the overpowering citrus made everything sour. At first that made the dish seem almost Asian inspired, as if Western palates would take a minute to get comfortable with the flavor profile, but in the end, it was just plain weird, not a complex creation that takes time to explore and appreciate. The variety of textures — smooth gelato, thick lime curd, chestnut cream and crunchy bits — was welcome, but even that became overdone with pieces of gelee and something crisp (more chestnuts?) in the gelato (or under it?). The cacophony of flavors was such a mess it was tough to tell what was where and, more to the point, why.
That’s not to say that you can’t find a good dessert at Roberta’s, but be careful of anything that sounds overly ambitious. If it seems like there’s too much going on, skip that dessert and stick to simpler options like pumpkin brioche, chocolate cake, and anything with ice cream and only two or three other flavors.