How Legendary Brooklyn Pizza Joint Roberta’s Makes Its Famous Bee Sting Pie

·8 min read

Brooklyn’s craft scene from earlier this century made it the global capital of cool. That energy may have dissipated in the borough, but through it all Carlo Mirarchi and Brandon Hoy’s seminal Bushwick restaurant Roberta’s has endured. It has since expanded around Gotham and even out into LA, growing beyond serving great pizzas to include unfussy food driven by chef Mirarchi’s Italian-inspired culinary style. In the second cookbook, Roberta’s: Still Cookin’ they detail their classics like the carbonara and wood-fired pizzas, as well as their oxtail lasagna, wood grilled spot prawns and tripe prepared the way the Romans do.

They’ve shared with Robb Report readers the recipe for their famed honey and soppressata pizza the Bee Sting. They didn’t just provide the recipe for the pizza itself, but also how to make the restaurant’s coveted dough, its sauce and the chili oil that gives the pizza its kick.

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People really, really seem to like this pizza. It is both a blessing and a curse. Will Jackson, veteran of Roberta’s LA, refers to himself as being “My Girl’d” all night when a stack of Stingz hits the rail. Always slice the pizza first, then drizzle on the honey, or you’ll end up with a sticky pizza cutter.

Bee Sting Pizza

roberta's pizza
roberta's pizza

Makes 1 individual pizza

  • 1 ball pizza dough (detailed instructions below)

  • 70 g. pelati (detailed instructions below)

  • 1 g. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 5 g. chili oil (detailed instructions below)

  • 4 leaves fresh basil

  • 75 g. fresh mozzarella

  • 6 thin slices soppressata

  • 15 grams honey

Preheat the oven as high as it will go (about 500°F) with 2 baking stones or steels about 4 inches apart in the middle of the oven for a full hour.

Place the pizza dough on a lightly floured work surface and stretch to 10 to 12 inches following the instructions further below. Transfer to a wooden peel.

Ladle Pelati onto the center of the dough, then use the bottom of the ladle to spread it evenly, leaving a margin about 1-inch wide around the perimeter. Top with crushed red pepper flakes and the chili oil, then tear the basil leaves and let them fall onto the pizza. Using your hands, break the mozzarella into grape-sized pieces and distribute them evenly on top of the sauce. Place 5 slices of soppressata around the perimeter of the sauce and one in the center.

Slide the pizza on to the bottom stone or steel in the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown. Check after seven minutes (see more detailed cooking instructions below). Slice the pizza, then drizzle with honey.

Roberta’s Pizza Dough

Ball of pizza dough on table with chef hands knead the dough in background.
Ball of pizza dough on table with chef hands knead the dough in background.

What is in this recipe is just as important as what is not. We use starter as a leavener instead of active dry or cake yeast. It’s a little tricky and may take some practice depending on your environment, but ultimately, it’s a more natural pizza dough.

Makes four balls for four individual pizzas

  • 353 grams filtered water, at room temperature

  • 161 grams ripe starter

  • 12 grams extra-virgin olive oil

  • 18 grams fine sea salt

  • 295 grams 00 flour

  • 295 grams unbleached

  • all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Place the filtered water in a large bowl. Add the starter and dissolve by hand. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, salt and the two flours. Knead with one hand in the bowl just until no dry flour is visible. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This makes the dough more pliable when kneading and shaping later.

After resting, knead the dough until it is just smooth. Divide the dough into four equal-sized portions by weight and on a clean, lightly floured surface, shape each portion into a round ball that is mostly smooth on the bottom and very smooth on top. This should be done gently; stop before the surface of the dough starts to show tiny tears. Flour the tops of the dough balls and cover with plastic. Leave the dough balls at room temperature for six to eight hours. If preparing to be used the next day, you can leave this dough out at room temperature for up to 30 hours with nice bubbly results. Room temperature is ideally 75°F.

If preparing further in advance, transfer the dough balls to a lightly floured sheet pan or plate, cover tightly, and place in the refrigerator to chill for as few as two and as many as seven days before it will become overproofed.

Dough balls are stiff when they first come out of refrigeration, so pull the dough at least 30 minutes before you plan to stretch it out.

Stretching

Allow your dough to come to room temperature (20 minutes–three hours). While keeping it a circle at all times, place your dough on a lightly floured surface. Remember to keep track of which side is the top because that one will bubble up more nicely than the bottom.

With lightly floured hands, press down firmly on the middle to take the air out of your mantle and core while leaving a one-inch crust untouched. This is called docking. Rotate the dough as needed to dock thoroughly and evenly. Once you’ve taken most of the air out of the middle, you should have what looks like a little pizza in front of you. Pick the dough up and pass it gently from hand to hand. The dough should advance in a circle as your hands pass it back and forth. Manage the dough from the top, and allow gravity and a little centrifugal force to do the work. You should mostly just touch where the mantle meets the crust. The core will stretch on its own, so if you stretch from too close to the middle, you may wind up with a thin spot. This may be as fast as 6 passes with well-tempered dough and skilled hands. Cold dough will take much longer. Once you’ve reached 10 to 12 inches, set the dough down on a clean dry surface and flour the bottom side. The bottom will be a little rougher than the top—like the dark side of the moon. Rub the flour onto the bottom, making sure to dust all the way to the edge but without pressing down on the crust that you’ve worked so hard to keep airy and plump. It’s okay to be pretty liberal with the flour here. Flip the dough on to a new surface without stretching it beyond 10 to 12 inches. Unless you’re sliding a thin metal peel under a fully topped pie, this surface will be the one that carries the pizza into the oven, so choose carefully. For home cooks we recommend a wooden peel.

The nicest doughs will be perfect 12-inch circles with puffy crusts, no thin spots, almost no flour on top and as little as you can get away with on the bottom. Make sure to have all your ingredients ready because as soon as you set your fully stretched and floured dough down, it will start to stick to whatever surface you’ve put it down on. Give yourself no more than five minutes to top the pizza. If you need to check if it’s stuck, give it a shimmy or a shake. It’s almost pizza time!

Home Oven Instructions

We can’t all have a wood-fired oven in the backyard, but that’s no reason you can’t achieve the crispy bottom of your dreams.

Place two baking steels in the middle of your oven about 4 inches apart. You will ultimately bake on the bottom one. Pre-heat as hot as your oven will go for a full hour. If that’s 500°F, set your timer for seven minutes when cooking pizza. If you can go up to 550°F, check your pie at four minutes. Most of our recipes assume you’re using a gas oven that goes up to 500°F.

Once your unbaked pizza is topped and ready to fire into the oven, slide it on to the bottom baking steel. The hot air in your oven may escape, but the ripping hot baking steels will radiate much of the heat needed to give your crust a nice oven spring.

Pelati

bianco dinapoli canned whole peeled tomatoes
bianco dinapoli canned whole peeled tomatoes

Pelati is Italian for canned (or jarred) peeled tomatoes, which we use in this versatile combination. This is the base of many of our sauces and pizzas. We find whole peeled San Marzano or plum tomatoes are best.

  • 2 15-oz. cans peeled whole San Marzano or plum tomatoes

  • 10 g. sea salt

  • 34 g. extra virgin extra virgin olive oil

Drain one of the cans of tomatoes of all its “can water”—about a third of its volume. Combine drained tomatoes and the undrained can in a bowl with salt and oil. Using an immersion blender or food mill, blend until very smooth. Using a food processor will incorporate lots of air into the sauce making it appear pink. Store for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Chili Oil

Using the metric weights, it’s easy to scale this recipe up or down.

  • 100 g. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 kg. blended oil

  • 250 g. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Place the chili flakes and blended oil in a saucepan off the heat. Cook on medium-low heat until the oil is a vibrant orange, about eight to 10 minutes. Make sure not to burn the flakes because the whole batch will be bitter.

Cool the oil for 30 minutes. Sometimes we taste the oil at this point to make sure the correct amount of steeping has occurred. It should be quite spicy. You can also delegate this task to an enemy or a green line cook. Strain over a bowl and discard the flakes. Stir in the extra virgin olive oil, adding more than noted if a less spicy oil is desired. Ultimately, your chili oil should be balanced, not just pain in a bottle.

The above recipes were excerpted from the new cookbook Roberta’s: Still Cookin’, published by Rizzoli.

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