Yes, the word pizza is in the name, but this neighborhood eatery is way more than a pizza place. It has an extensive menu of Italian specialties, and feels like a cozy Italian ristorante.
First, let’s talk about the hood. It’s on Jersey Avenue between Fifth and Sixth, which puts it in the charming community of Hamilton Park. The park itself is just a few blocks north, and the street is lined with brownstones and shade trees. Visit in the late fall, as we did, and their burnt umber leaves carpet the sidewalk.
Family is the other word that comes to mind when I think of Rustique. The minute we walked in, we were greeted by owner Joe Rosiello’s wife, Kelly, and their little boy, Joe Junior. Joe Senior, who has owned the restaurant for three years, came out of the kitchen to join them for some really engaging family portraits.
The restaurant is BYOB. Soon, the dining room filled with young couples who brought their own wine and beer.
The first thing to come to the table was fresh warm bread. The accompanying dish of olive oil wasn’t the standard fare. It was infused with garlic, and you could smell the aroma as our waitress Simona approached the table.
We of course had to try the specialty. Joe recommended we order one large pizza and divide it in half—the large ones are very, very large—with the signature Margherita on one side and on the other the prosciutto di Parma and arugula, which comes with mozzarella, roasted garlic oil, shaved parmesan, and no tomato sauce.
The high temperatures of the brick-oven cooking method make for a crispy crust and crispier toppings that don’t go limp.
You can’t beat a salad/pizza combo. We ordered a beautiful mesclun salad with field greens, tomatoes, kalamata olives, julienne carrots, red peppers, and provolone with house balsamic vinaigrette on the side.
Of course, this would be enough for any sane person, but Joe surprised us with something else. I’m glad he did because Rustique is noted for its pasta dishes. This was an elegant combination of sausage, broccoli rabe, and farfalle. Other entrees featured eggplant, chicken, veal, shrimp, spaghetti, ravioli, and “Joey Mo’s Award Winning Mac ‘n’ Cheese.”
The substantial menu also includes a range of appetizers, from their signature mussels to chicken wings and tenders and antipasto. Five salad choices include Caesar, Caprese, arugula, and portobello. If you’re in the neighborhood for lunch, you can select from a wide range of cold heroes, hot sandwiches, and pizza rolls.
OK, I didn’t forget dessert. Rustique offers only two options, and we ordered both—homemade Brooklyn cheesecake and homemade Tiramisu. They were both delectable, and that “homemade” isn’t just a gimmick. Kelly made the cheesecake herself.
Which brings us full circle to this family-owned, family-friendly eatery that offers “comfort Italian cuisine.”—Kate Rounds
611 Jersey Ave.
(201) 222-6886 or (201) 222-6883
PHOTOS BY Terri Saulino Bish-