Other than the bright "Pizza. Beer. Wine." sign hanging over the door (things don't stay that shiny-white outside in NYC for long), there's nothing to suggest that Rosco's Pizza out in Brooklyn's Crown Heights is a neighborhood newcomer. Or anything remotely resembling a pizza destination. ("This is it?" sighed the friend I dragged on a two-mile walk out there, clearly expecting something a little more Paulie Gee's or Motorino.)
It's a corner slice place through-and-through—from the counter service, to the full pies ready to reheat by the slice, to the video game console next to the tables. Play Donkey Kong while you wait for your pizza. "I'm at the pizza place around the corner," yelled a woman into her cell phone, over the din of her two kids fighting each other for the last slice in their pie. "You know, the new one. No, just a normal pizza place. It's good."
But look a little closer and you'll realize that Rosco's is hipper than most. There's Miller High Life on tap, sure, but also local craft brews and both white and red wine. Soppressata, ricotta, and roasted garlic joining pepperoni and mushrooms on the toppings list. And then, the pizza itself. Which, on a first visit, was excellent.
Rosco's has only been open for a few weeks, and is still getting into the swing of things (they weren't able to do a Sicilian pie on the night I visited, for instance). But a first taste left me convinced that this Brooklyn sliceria has an awful lot of potential.
Owners Clay Mallow and Wade Hagenbart (of Dram Shop and Güeros Brooklyn) took over a former pizzeria, the unfortunately named "Slice of Brooklyn," and brought in Jonathan Greenberg to play pizzaiolo. Greenberg came through Franny's and Paulie Gee's, two of Brooklyn's best modern pizzerias. And while Rosco's pies don't resemble either of their's in the slightest—this is classic New York by-the-slice in nearly every way—the pizzas do show a level of craftsmanship that evidences his training.
Like the plain slice, gently priced at $2.50. It looked a bit meager to me—this is no sloppy, cheese-sliding-off slice—but I changed my mind on the first bite. The crust is perfect for supporting the toppings: a super-thin but sturdy base, a just-puffy-enough end crust with a real crisp chew to it. It's well-salted and tasty enough that I'd eat the crusts on their own, which is why the other elements didn't really need to pile on heavily. The tomato sauce, made with San Marzano tomatoes, has a faint fruity, peppery backbone of olive oil—nothing aggressive, but there if you look for it. There's a thin veil of melted mozzarella and a sprinkle of Pecorino to kick up the salt. The crust was a little blonde for my taste, but had more color on the underside; and given that it had the sturdiness and end-chew that I love, I wasn't inclined to care too much about the hue.
As far as a New York slice goes, it's downright restrained, but in a way that showcases all three elements. It's pizza you can eat a lot of. This normally light eater kicked back three slices without thinking.
A whole pie we ordered, roasted garlic and sausage (16" plain pie is $14; toppings kicked that up to $15.50) was a little higher on the sloppy-indulgent scale. The sausage (both meats and cheeses are from Coluccio's) is super-juicy with its fatty pork taste backed up by fennel and black pepper, and while I generally prefer crumbles of sausage to discs, these stayed juicy enough that I didn't mind. And long after I was too full for more pizza, I kept plucking off and eating the soft, sweet garlic puddles. There's nothing worse than incompletely roasted garlic, but these gooey cloves were perfect.
This morning, I wandered into the kitchen while writing up my notes and, almost unconsciously, found myself eating a leftover sausage slice cold from the box. It's good stuff, and if you're going to get a whole pie, it really should pass the morning-after test.
With only a quick visit (and no sense of their Sicilian), we're not ready to weigh a verdict on Rosco's, but I'll just say that I loved what I tasted. Anyone else been to Rosco's? What did you think?
685 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn NY 11238 (map) 347-955-4881