Pizzeria La Rosa has been in a small corner of New Rochelle’s South End for a little over a year. It only came onto my radar recently, when I found myself drooling over its feature on an episode of Restaurant Hunter. We got a chance to visit over the long holiday break and, while I’d normally be hesitant to write a blog post based on just one visit, that’s not the case here. Pizzeria La Rosa was delicious, affordable and kid friendly, and its chef and co-owner, Matt DiGesu was so super warm and friendly on our visit, that it’s just love at first sight for me.
You may be saying to yourself, “Eh I live in CT. This sounds too far.” But that’s not really the case because Pizzeria La Rosa is about half a mile from Exit 15 on I-95 and there’s NO ONE in Westchester or Fairfield counties that hasn’t found himself hungry while driving on I-95 before, amirite??
Really Good Pedigree
Pizzeria La Rosa is a co-venture between Frank Pinello, owner of Williamsburg’s well known and well regarded Best Pizza, and DiGesu, a Westchester native who worked under Pinello for years at Best. You may also recognize Frank Pinello as the host of Viceland’s The Pizza Show.
The owners used Best as a model when opening La Rosa, but they note differences, too. Like Best, the pizzas (and most other dishes) at Pizzeria La Rosa are cooked in a century old wood-burning oven. Also like Best, DiGesu aims to keep the menu at Pizzeria La Rosa simple and short. (The hubs and I always comment on how much more we like restaurants with tight, streamlined menus).
Casual Meets Hipster Atmosphere
Ambiance is probably a key difference between this spot and its older sister in Brooklyn. There are certainly elements to Pizzeria La Rosa’s look that feel Williamsburg/hipster-esque, but there’s also a low key, suburban feel to La Rosa. When we entered from the back, the first thing we saw was their stack of high chairs. And our waiter told us we could pick any seat we wanted.
Pizzeria La Rosa is pretty large, too. There are three rooms to pick from - the front room being more bar-like - and tables range from booths to two tops. It’s definitely a place to bring kids or to show up with the extended family. It’s homey, rustic and relaxed inside, but you can also tell pretty quickly that it’s a spot that cares deeply about its food.
the Pizzas Are Great But So Is Everything Else
With a name like Pizzeria La Rosa, and knowing the spot’s origin story, you’d expect this blog post to talk mostly about pizza. So let’s talk about pizza. The pizza menu here is small: there are four pies and then a really large list of toppings that can be added to any of those four pies. We opted for the simple Margarita pie on our visit, since we had so many other items to also try. The other pies offered are a White pie with caramelized onions and a sesame seed crust, a Meatball pie and a Veggie pie with seasonal veggies. The crust on these pies is thin and crispy and the cheeses, sauces and other ingredients used are all first class. It’s the real deal.
I would suggest, however, exploring more of the menu than just the pizzas. Each pie probably serves about one person so, whether you’re just there as a couple or a larger group, definitely add some non-pizza items to your order.
We started with the Arugula Salad with roasted chickpeas, plumped raisin, pickled fennel, lemon confit vinaigrette and shaved pecorino cheese. This was so delicious - I would be 20 pounds thinner if I had access to salads as tasty as this one every day. (Side note we ordered the $9 single serving and it was more than enough for the two of us adults). We also tried the Meatballs with Grandma’s Sauce from the Small Plates menu. For $10, this came with about 5 small meatballs in a swoon worthy tomato sauce and accompanied by tasty strips of Pizza Bianco (baked dough brushed with olive oil and finished with sea salt and garlic).
I couldn’t resist the Rigatoni Vodka listed under the House Specialties. And I was NOT disappointed with the result. This was a slightly spicy, subtly creamy, near perfect rendition of the popular pasta dish. It, too, came with some Pizza Bianco on the side, perfect for lapping up the leftover sauce. At only $12, the Rigatoni makes a perfect companion dish to any pie (it’s not a huge portion).
That Chicken Parm, Tho
When we watched that episode of Restaurant Hunter, what really stood out to us was Pizzeria La Rosa’s Chicken Parm. Unlike most spots, La Rosa sidesteps the usual preparation with white meat chicken breast and instead uses organic free range chicken thigh that has been braised for 24 hours before hitting the oven. This leads to a far more juicy, flavor packed Chicken Parm (Fun Fact: I prefer dark meat to white meat!). We also learned on Restaurant Hunter that Pizzeria La Rosa uses a different red sauce for all of their red sauce dishes. The version that accompanies the Chicken Parm is called “spicy sauce”. I didn’t find it to be too spicy, but in the pasta that came with it (likely using the same sauce), you could certainly feel a kick.
The Parm is $14 or $18 with an accompanying side of pasta. I think the money move at Pizzeria La Rosa is to get the Parm, the Rigatoni, something green (a salad or maybe the Charred Broccolini small plate), and then a pie or two based on your group size.
I also want to give a shout out to two sweet things that happened toward the end of our meal. The owner, Matt DiGesu, stopped by our table to check on us and he was so kind and welcoming. We chatted awhile and he made us feel like regulars on our first visit. I’m pretty sure he stopped by each table of guests. Good hospitality really solidifies a visit.
Also incredibly sweet - the Lemon Ricotta Italian Doughnuts we ordered for dessert. HOLY CRAP. They came piping hot out of the oven and five to an order. Let’s just say there was some drama over who would get that extra fifth one (Unsurprising Spoiler Alert: the two kids split it).
Pizzeria La Rosa is located at 12 Russell Avenue in New Rochelle, NY. Take note that the restaurant has a dedicated parking lot around the corner at 11 Allard Avenue and there is a footpath directly from the lot to the restaurant. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 11pm and Sunday from 12pm to 9pm. Closed Mondays.
Pizzeria La Rosa also offers a nicely curated cocktail, wine and craft beer list. Mangia!