|Roberta's in Bushwick, Brooklyn|
|Hawaiian pizza at Roberta's|
However, the idea was put on the back-burner until an Italian-born friend of Mr. Parachini's - who had been at the pizzeria in New Haven - told him that an acquaintance was closing a pizzeria in Fossono, Italy and was looking to sell his oven. Long story short, Mr. Parachini with his co-chefs and business partners, Brandon Hoy, Carlo Mirarchi, and Mauro Soggio, traveled to the pizza capital of the world and returned with some pizza cookery and perhaps more than a few secrets of the trade. It took them a year to convert an old warehouse space on Moore Street into a space that is part Bushwick loft, part urban cabin. The ceilings are high with exposed rafters, painted white, and the guests eat on beautiful stained-wood picknick tables that were made from repurposed wood. The pizza kitchen and wood-fired oven are open to the dining room, allowing patrons to watch the talented chefs dance around the hot oven. There is more dining space in a courtyard in the back during the warm weather.
|Roberta's dining room|
|Pizza kitchen and oven|
Salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and spices are grown in a greenhouse on top of a shipping container next to the restaurant and at two nearby neighborhood yards. The simple hoop house is built with basic and fairly cheap materials, and protects two rows of typical raised soil beds. The plants are fed with water collected from roof runoff, and Roberta's owners run a compost program in a next-door lot that provides their fertilizer. To supplement their own production, the chefs purchase food from local New York State farms, as well as from Brooklyn Grange and other New York City farms.
|Hoop house garden behind Roberta's|
|Interior of greenhouse|
|One alternative to pizza at Roberta's|
After less than three years in business, Roberta's is already a Bushwick landmark, and what is especially remarkable is that the establishment has evolved into more than just a restaurant. It is community organization that promotes social connectivity, reconnecting urbanites to their food, using local resources efficiently, and transforming underused urban spaces to produce food. Inside the shipping container that supports the greenhouse there is a small studio that houses the Heritage Radio Network, which produces webcasts about urban foragers, first-time farmers, and other local food programming. Most of the recording happens during the day when the restaurant is less busy and features other local chef's and interesting characters from the industry.
Here at growingCities, we strongly believe in Roberta's mission and hope that more restaurants follow in her path. Oh, and and if you are still waiting for one last tidbit, Roberta's is named after Mr. Parachini's mom, and it looks like she was a pretty strong inspiration.
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