I visited Meghan Markle's 'holy grail' of pizza places and I'm desperate to go back
Meghan Markle wrote about her favorite New York City spots on her now-defunct blog, The Tig.
One of the places she singled out was Rubirosa, which she called her "holy grail of pizza."
I visited twice to try out their food, and I enjoyed almost everything I ate.
Rubirosa, an Italian restaurant beloved by Meghan Markle, is in the Manhattan neighborhood of Nolita on Mulberry Street, between Prince Street and Spring Street.
Nolita is bordered by SoHo to the west, NoHo to the north, the Bowery to the east, and Little Italy to the south. Nolita technically used to be considered part of Little Italy ("Nolita" is derived from "north of Little Italy"), but as the area evolved (and Little Italy shrank), it became its own little neighborhood.
I visited the restaurant, which opened in 2009, twice: first in January 2020, and then again in January 2023.
Rubirosa is a family-owned restaurant, originally owned by AJ Pappalardo and his father, Joe. Joe got his start in the business with Joe & Pat's, a pizza place on Staten Island. In 2009, John and AJ took their business to Manhattan, opening Rubirosa.
AJ died in 2015 at age 40, Eater reported.
Meghan wrote about Rubirosa on her now-defunct blog, The Tig, in 2014. She called it her "holy grail of pizza."
Meghan closed down The Tig in 2018, ahead of her royal wedding to Prince Harry. But as The Tig Archives has documented, she wrote about the pizza joint in June 2014.
"Tucked down Mulberry Street, with an inviting bar, warm tones washing the walls, and the smell of basil and rich tomato sauce wafting throughout, there rests my holy grail of pizza. My love for Rubirosa began in the first week they opened. A friend had mentioned it to me, I sat at the bar and had a slice of their a la vodka pie (okay, I had two) and a cold beer. That is where my love affair began," the future Duchess of Sussex wrote.
She also went into detail about what she orders, which I replicated — and expanded upon — during my two visits.
"It's the pizza, the blessed chewy/crunchy perfect crust, the gooey cheese, and the unparalleled bite that I literally dream of," she added.
I invited my mom to come with me — both times — and since we were trying to live like Meghan, we had to get beers like she recommended.
The first time Meghan went, she said she sat at the bar and "had a slice of their a la vodka pie (okay, I had two) and a cold beer." So, we ordered two beers too for $9 each. Pizza and beer really is a combo that can't be beat.
One of the appetizers Meghan recommended was the broccoli rabe, so we got that too. It was delicious.
I admit, broccoli rabe (a vegetable that's actually more closely related to a turnip than broccoli) can be a hit or miss for me, but I found this to be quite tasty. The texture wasn't too chewy, and I appreciated the little kick that the chili flakes added. It was also seasoned with some garlic. This antipasti cost $11 when we bought it in 2020 (now it's $13).
Rubirosa is famous for its tie-dye pizza, which features vodka sauce, tomato sauce, pesto, and fresh mozzarella. So we had to try it.
On The Tig, Meghan only mentions the vodka pizza, which is essentially the same, just without the pesto swirl. I've had enough vodka slices in my life, so I figured we should try the tie-dye, since it's both what Rubirosa is known for and was close to Meghan's order.
The restaurant offers two pizza sizes, 14 and 18 inches. Since we were hungry, we went for the larger pizza for $30 — in 2023, it costs $33.
Readers, it was mouthwateringly good. The vodka sauce had the perfect amount of sweetness that I appreciate in a vodka sauce, the cheese wasn't too chewy, and the pesto swirl made me believe that all pizza should have a little swirl of pesto added, instead of chewy basil leaves.
But since Meghan also noted the honeypie on The Tig, we went for a half-and-half pie.
The honeypie is made with mozzarella, fontina, soppressata, and spiced honey, which I feel like is everywhere these days.
Meghan called ordering the honeypie "one of the best decisions I've ever made," and I'd have to agree. I love hot honey on my pizza — another NYC staple, Paulie Gee's, also has a killer hot-honey slice — and this didn't let me down.
I also have to talk about the crust — as a New Yorker, I'm very particular about the crust.
Deep-dish pizza is simply always going to be a no for me. You should be able to pick up a a slice of pizza and eat it with your hands, not a fork and knife. I also don't like my crust too thin and crunchy.
But I might have been converted after eating at Rubirosa. The crust was super-thin and crunchy, but it let me appreciate the flavors of the sauce much more, and I was able to eat more slices than I normally would.
Overall, I had a lovely time at Rubirosa when I went in January 2020 ... If only I'd known what was to come two months later, I would've gone 20 more times.
But I didn't, so I had to wait a while before the opportunity came again.
Back in 2020, our meal cost $75.25 before tax, for two beers, a cappuccino, the broccoli rabe, the large pie, and an order of cannolis, which were $12 in 2020 (they are now $15).
Cut to 2023: We're back eating inside, Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde were spotted on a date at Rubirosa last summer, and it was time for me to try it again — I thought there was no way it was as good as I remembered.
Yes, Wilde and Styles were spotted at Rubirosa in August 2022, reminding me that I needed to return at some point. It took me five months, but I finally was able to snag a reservation in January.
Thankfully, it looked just like I remembered.
There's nothing like escaping a rainy afternoon in New York City by ducking into a cozy restaurant.
This time, my mom and I switched up our order a bit to try more of the menu. We started with rice balls.
The rice balls, which were $15, came out piping hot. They contained mascarpone, prosciutto, and fontina, and they were served with marinara sauce on the side.
Each bite was a satisfying crunch with a creamy inside. I didn't think they were particularly seasoned — instead, they relied on the flavors of the cheeses and meat. As a former picky eater, I've liked rice balls since I was a kid, and these reinforced why.
Then we snacked on a stuffed artichoke that my mom declared "wasn't as good" as her mom's recipe.
If I had to pick my least favorite item from both of my visits, it'd be the stuffed artichoke, which came with breadcrumbs, pecorino, and parsley. Once we were able to spread the breadcrumbs around more, it tasted a bit better, but overall, I thought it was pretty bland, especially compared to the rest of the flavor-packed dishes we got.
My mom told me that her mom (my grandma) made better stuffed artichoke that they slathered in breadcrumbs and dipped in butter. I had to agree, that sounded better.
It cost $16.
For the main event, we went with a 14-inch half-and-half pie, this time with the tie-dye pizza and the Bianca pizza.
This cost $27 — getting a full Bianca pie would've been $24, but since the tie-dye is more expensive, they just charged for a full tie-dye pie.
The tie-dye pizza was just as delectable as I remembered it. I was also impressed by the garlicky goodness of the Bianca, or white, slice.
The Bianca pizza was topped with ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, and oregano.
Bianca pizza, or white pizza, can predictably be a little heavy since it's just cheese and bread. Somehow, this felt just as light as the tie-dye slices.
Meghan wrote on The Tig that Rubirosa has "pastas and entrees I can vouch for," but didn't specify which ones. So I went with my gut and ordered the Roman cacio e pepe.
Cacio e pepe is a classic Italian dish that traditionally features spaghetti, pecorino cheese, and black pepper.
As you can see, I was pleased with my choice.
Rubirosa offers pasta in individual and family-style portions (for those who want to share). Since my mom and I were already two appetizers and a pizza pie deep, we stuck with the individual portion for $21.
Cacio e pepe usually has a little kick to it with the black pepper, and this was no disappointment. Like everything else I ate, this large bowl of pasta somehow felt light — the opposite of what eating Italian food usually feels like.
Meghan also wrote that Rubirosa has "desserts that you make room for despite being stuffed." Even though I normally can't finish a meal at a restaurant, I soldiered on and ordered the dessert sampler.
It came with Italian-American cookies, zeppoli with Nutella and strawberry dipping sauce, and cannoli. It was $25.
My favorite was my cannoli, which had a certain flavor added to the filling that I still can't quite put my finger on. But it was creamy and sweet and solidified why I love cannoli so much.
I thought the zeppolis were fine, if not a little chewy.
Cookie-wise, my favorites were the rainbow cookies. The chocolate shell on the top and bottom was melt-in-your-mouth perfect, and the flavor of each layer was strong.
Our meal came out to $136, before tax. That's steep for two people, but the next time I go back, I'll be grabbing pizza and beer, just like Meghan does.
Meghan certainly has good taste in Italian food. In her Rubirosa post, she also recommended Jean-Georges on the Upper East Side, so I might have my next lunch stop on my list.
In total, our order was $136 before tax, for the rice balls, a stuffed artichoke, the small pie, the individual pasta, the dessert sampler, and two cocktails.
To me, Rubirosa is definitely worth the hype — I'm seriously considering purchasing the vodka sauce for my own home. It's a good spot for a full Italian meal or a place to just grab a casual pizza and beer.
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