Review: Rubirosa (Manhattan, New York)

What drew me to eat at Rubirosa (no web site) twice in one month? Its philosophy on tomatoes.

Rubirosa is a medium-sized Italian restaurant in the Soho/Nolita neighborhood of New York that opened in November 2010.

Prices at Rubirosa
In terms of value, it's an amazing addition to the neighborhood. A full dinner won't leave you broke, and the menu offers flexible options for sharing or piecing together a meal of appetizers, sides, and pizza. The portions are more than adequate. I'm also a huge advocate of the "half portion" option, which Rubirosa includes on its menu for all pasta dishes—except the lasagna for two ($24).

Boyfriend and I had a very filling dinner with two drinks each for less than $80 total, including tip. The other time we went as a party of three and ordered more food than we possibly could have eaten, and the bill was around $50 per person, including tip.

What to Eat
Expect the menu to be a little different from anything you find on Menupages or another web site, but some guiding principles will steer you in the right direction. There are two paths that I would take: one involves the lasagna for two and the other involves the "rice balls" or arancini ($9).

Order the rice balls and the server will present to you three baseball-sized, golden fried gorgeously gooey arancini. Slice your fork into one, and it will ooze mascarpone and fontina. Speckles of pink prosciutto dot the inside. These are not to be missed. However, they are rich and quite heavy, so I would not order them in the same meal as the lasagna.

The lasagna for two is an ample casserole of bubbling cheese, bright tomatoes, sausage, and meatball. Reserve a couple of pieces of bread from the complimentary basket to sop up the lovely tomatoes juices that are left behind in the dish.

All the pasta dishes I tried were fantastic, fresh, and full of that bright tomato flavor. Rubirosa's kitchen seems to approach tomatoes with the "do as little as possible" philosophy. Buy great quality canned tomatoes, and don't cook them too much. Some tomato-based sauces and pasta dishes develop a deep burgundy color after spending hours on the stove in a vat of red wine and aromatics. There's certainly a time and a place for that (including my house once a week). But the vibrant red of Rubirosa's tomtoes let you know the kitchen is not messing with your food too much, and it works.

Other oustanding dishes included the pappardelle with chunky sausage ragu and pecorino ($15 for half portion, $24 for a large portion). The half portion is plenty of pasta for one person and is even enough to share if you order multiple courses. Another winner: the caramelized onion and duck bruschetta ($2.50 per piece). I worry sometimes about getting ripped off with bruschetta. It's just bread with a little something on top. Again, the portions here are generous, and the bruschetta is piled high with shredded duck meat. You definitely get $2.50-worth of food. It's enough meat to fill a taco.

I was less impressed with chicken under a brick (about $23), which came on a bed of lovely escarole and beans, but was still just chicken. Stick to pastas and appetizers. Pizza is another mainstay of this restaurant (I think the full name might actually be Rubirosa Pizza Bar), but watching other diners fumble with New York-style super thin crust slices, I opted out. There's other amazing Neopolitan pizza in this city (Motorino is my favorite), and I think Rubirosa has a much better thing going on without these sloppy pies.

Definitely call for a reservation. The restaurant is listed on, but you'll get a much better slot if you call and speak to the host. Also, definitely ask to sit in the area just behind the bar, or the middle room. There's a back room that's a little under-class, and the drafty seats in the front aren't great either.

Rubirosa (no web site)
235 Mulberry Street
New York
(212) 965-0500