Russo’s Mozzarella and Pasta

For my last post of 2008, I thought I’d go back and post about a place I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. It’s not a fancy place, or even a restaurant at all — there are no chairs or tables at Russo’s Mozzarella and Pasta. What they do have is great food.

I used to live a few blocks from Russo’s in the East Village (at E. 11th St), and stopped in occasionally for Italian cheeses and pastas. I walk to work past the Park Slope location, but for months I didn’t really bother — I have another Italian specialty store much closer to my apartment. But then I noticed the poster out front that advertised sandwiches, and I decided to stop there on my next lunch break. I was particularly intrigued by the broccoli rabe sandwich, as I am a huge fan of broccoli rabe.

I’ve gotten the sandwich a few times now, because I love it so much. Depending on who makes it there might be different proportions of things, but it’s a very simple sandwich. Cold broccoli rabe (it’s been sauteed with garlic), fresh mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes, all piled onto a crusty roll. There’s no dressing, other than the olive oil from the broccoli rabe and the tomatoes.

The first time I was there I noticed the stuffed roasted artichokes behind the counter and inquired about them. “Do you want to try one?” the lady behind the counter asked. I certainly did. They are made using canned artichokes, but they are delicious anyway. They’re also good in a panini with fried eggplant and more broccoli rabe (Russo’s is justifiably proud of their broccoli rabe and they include it in almost all of their sandwiches). The mozzarella, roasted pepper, and sun-dried tomato panini is not quite as good; the peppers are nice and fresh but need a little more “oomph.”

The pasta alla criolla (with fresh tomatoes, basil, and parmesan) is a little too salty, but the mushroom salad is amazing. Featuring a half-dozen different kinds of mushrooms, the salad is bathed in olive oil and is slightly acidic (due to white wine vinegar, I think). The mushrooms are all fresh and delicious, not at all mushy and perfectly seasoned.

Russo’s had become one of my go-to lunch places — yes, they have the imported Italian products, house-made pastas, and fresh-baked breads, but those are available in several stores throughout the city. Precious few have great broccoli rabe sandwiches.

Russo’s — 363 7th Avenue, Brooklyn

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