Mozzarella Sticks
Rubirosa
235 Mulberry Street
New York, NY, 10012
★★★★★

“The wait is 45 minutes to an hour, would you like to put your name down?”

It was 7pm on a Monday night—I balked at the estimate. What restaurant has an hour wait on a Monday night? For a brief moment the restaurant slowed down to a dull, reverberating drone and I got caught up in an internal dialog:


An hour wait?! It’s a Monday night…

Well I suppose this is NYC.

Restaurants in NYC always have hour waits.

And… This place is swarming with people.

And… Rubirosa does come highly recommended.

And… What if these are the best mozzarella sticks I’ve ever had?

Could be worth the hour wait…


Cut back to reality and flash forward, not 45 minutes, not 1 hour, but an hour and a half. My stomach felt as though it was about to start eating itself from the inside out. As soon as we were seated, we placed a rush order of mozzarella sticks (and a couple glasses of wine.)

It was only after we had squared away our order that I took a moment to appreciate the barrel vaulted dining room. Reclaimed wood tables, cast iron light fixtures, walls covered with vertical strips of wood and antiqued mirrors—the space had a nautical vibe. And before the three of us even had a chance to dive into a conversation, the stix arrived.



THE STIX

The presentation was simple and had a certain understated elegance. Three slender sticks rested next to a shallow dish of marinara on a plain brown square of paper. But while the arrangement was copacetic, the sticks looked a bit anemic positioned next to such a generous serving of sauce. Without even taking a bite, the $10 price tag was already feeling a bit steep.

I picked up one the stix and broke it half. A skimpy amount of stringy mozzarella stretched between the two breaded ends in a dismal display of disappointment. I tasted the mozzarella independent of the rest of the stick and I will give credit where credit is due. The mozzarella tasted as mozzarella was intended: mild, milky, creamy. It was delicious, but the ratio was way out of whack.


I dipped the stick in the marinara and took a bite. My eyes popped. Rubirosa nailed the breading. It was fried to golden brown perfection and the rugged outer texture provided an additional dimension of crisp. The breading was salty and impeccably seasoned. It is almost reprehensible that the cheese merely played a textural role in the dish and its flavor got completely overshadowed.


THE SAUCE

The marinara was a standout example of simple done right—chunky tomatoes combined with good olive oil and a touch of red pepper flakes. The sauce was effortlessly seasoned and complemented the breading. It was arguably the hallmark of the dish.


THE TAKEAWAY

Here’s the deal: if Rubirosa was able to strike a balance between the breading and the cheese, then they would have the makings of a perfect mozzarella stick. I’ve been in this game long enough to know that perfect traditional mozzarella sticks are few and far between. That said, ultimately the sticks are overpriced and inaccessible. Even in NYC, no one should have to wait an hour and a half and shell out over $3 per stick, regardless of how incredible they are.


UPDATE

2/14/17 — Hail Mary has permanently closed its doors. For those of you who had the privilege of trying the deep fried burrata, relish in its memory. For those of you who didn't, at least you got to read this review :)


THE BREAKDOWN

Price $10 for 3 stix
Crispiness
★★★★★
Breading
★★★★★
Cheese
★★★★★
Gooeyness
★★★★★
Dip
★★★★★
Presentation
★★★★★
Overall
★★★★★