photo Courtesy Rubirosa
AJ Pappalardo grew up in a pizzeria: His father, Giuseppe Pappalardo, was the Joe in Joe & Pat’s, the beloved Staten Island pie shop that opened in 1960 after Joe and Pat emigrated from Naples. In 2010, the younger Pappalardo opened his own place with help from the elder, and he tapped another Italian-American Staten Islander, Al DiMeglio, to helm the kitchen, though there’s plenty of family oversight: Many dishes at Rubirosa come from AJ’s mother Lena’s personal recipes. While seasonal specials rotate frequently, much of the menu remains steadfast. We’re smitten with the classic pizza, a crisp, thin-crust iteration with tangy red sauce and dollops of dry mozzarella that’s a throwback to Joe & Pat’s standard pie. The pastas, all made in-house, are not to be missed; we like the cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage, ditto the spaghetti chitarra with red sauce and Parmesan. A wine list assembled by general manager Bari Musacchio features mostly Italian bottles, several from Arianna Occhipinti, wines Musacchio praises as a perfect fit for the restaurant’s concept and philosophy: welcoming and nuanced, approachable yet challenging, but, most important, fun and delicious.