When I come home feelin’ tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat-race noise down in the street (up on the roof)
On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof (up on the roof)
– The Drifters: Up On The Roof
In the early 1990s, Fortune magazine named Santa Fe one of America’s top ten dining destinations. The City Different has earned and solidified that reputation over the years with cutting edge restaurants that have culled worldwide acclaim. One of the cuisine types for which Santa Fe (and New Mexico for that matter) is not highly regarded on a national stage is pizza. Launched in March, 2006, the Rooftop Pizzeria appears to have made it its mission to prove that the inventiveness for which Santa Fe’s chefs are renown can extend to one of America’s favorite culinary obsessions–pizza.
The Rooftop Pizzeria is a sister restaurant to Santa Fe restaurants La Casa Sena, Rio Chama Steakhouse and the Blue Corn Cafe as well as the Chama River Brewing Company in Albuquerque, all properties of Santa Fe Dining, the restaurant company owned by Santa Fe art dealer and developer Gerald Peters. It seems every few years, Peters introduces a new concept restaurant and now has as impressive a restaurant repertoire as there is in the state.
True to its name, the Rooftop Pizzeria is located on the top floor of the Santa Fe Arcade. Dining outdoors, especially on a clear and slightly breezy spring day lets you breathe in New Mexico’s salubrious mountain air and gaze reverently at the incomparable blue skies that no Santa Fe painter has ever been able to fully duplicate. Gaze lower down and your view is of the Water Street parking lot and nearby rooftops.
The restaurant’s appealing antipasti selection is served with house-made breads and crackers as well as herb-infused oil. You may feel the siren’s call of warm roasted garlic cloves with lemon, oregano and cracked pepper. The marriage of seemingly disparate ingredients will play four-part harmony on your taste buds. After all the garlic cloves are gone, dipping the remaining bread (if any) into the lemony broth will remind you just how great an appetizer you just had.
You might opt instead for an appetizer of Prosciutto Stuffed Crimini Mushrooms, four mushroom caps engorged with prosciutto covered with melted mozzarella and drizzled with truffle oil. It’s served with sweet picked red onions and aged balsamic vinegar. The crimini mushrooms are meaty and moist, a perfect repository for the slightly salty prosciutto. The aged balsamic vinegar and its sweet tanginess provides a nice counterbalance to the savory strengths of the mushrooms and prosciutto.
The menu includes five different salad options including a smoked duck salad with roasted peppers, pistachios and mixed greens doused with Balsamic sesame vinaigrette. If you don’t order a salad, you’ll lustily ogle the salads destined for other tables. They appear to be an exciting array of leafy creations. A soup of the day, available in cup or bowl sizes, offering is an alternative starter option.
The restaurant features eleven house specialty pizzas as well as “build your own” options served on either of two premium house-made pizza doughs–a traditional “Artisan Crust” and a locally inspired “Blue Corn Crust.” The gourmet ingredients topping the specialty pies will have you doing a double-take. If the air wasn’t so crispy and clean, you might think you’re in Los Angeles where pizza toppings range from the sublime to the frou-frou. Of course, to gastronomes such ingredients as lobster, shrimp, apple-smoked bacon and smoked duck fall under the category of sublime. What makes it challenging is whether to order a specialty pizza or build your own masterpiece, limited only by your imagination.
Ultimately you might settle on a house specialty crafted with smoked duck, roasted garlic spread, spinach, basil, peppercorns and four cheeses on artisan crust. Wow! This will provide a lot of competition for your rapt attention thanks to ingredients that go together like bread and butter. The crust is thin and just slightly crispy while the sauce is subdued, letting other ingredients do the talking. There is more smoked duck in a 12-inch pie than you might have on entire duck meals and it is delicious, albeit slightly dry.
Sure Americans have long had a love affair with bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) sandwiches, but who’s ever heard of a BLT pizza. The pizza artisans at the Rooftop have and they’ve perfected it. This unlikely pie features apple-smoked bacon, ripe tomato and three cheeses (provolone, mozzarella and bleu cheese) topped with avocado and lettuce with a red sauce on an artisan crust. The real star of this outstanding orb (as it is on the BLT sandwich) is the applewood smoked bacon which is always first in name and first in the hearts of savvy diners.
If your tastes lean toward the Mediterranean, Rooftop will craft a flat bread beauty replete with Mediterranean roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Kalamata olives with a basil pesto on an artisan crust. Surprisingly, Feta cheese isn’t a standard on this pie, but the restaurant will substitute goat cheese if you request (and you should).
In the August, 2010 edition of the Food Network Magazine, an article entitled “50 States, 50 Pizzas” named the “best pizza” in each state. The Land of Enchantment’s representative on this list was a pizza called the “Santa Fe” and fittingly, it can only be found in our state capital’s Rooftop Pizzeria. This award-winning pizza, available by the slice or whole pizza, is crafted with grilled chicken, green chile, cotija and Asadero cheeses and toasted piñon with Alfredo sauce on a blue corn crust. While my Kim absolutely loved it and agreed with the Food Network’s assessment, this hard-liner found the chicken just a bit dry (as it almost always is on pizza), but the other ingredients worked quite well together.
Defining “the best ever” for any food category is an audacious premise, but one the Food Network took on when in 2015, it launched a series of “best ever” programs. In its inaugural episode which aired on January 5th, “The Best Pizza Ever” named the eleven best pizzas across the fruited plain. Chef-restaurateur Roger Mooking made a a case for the chicken green chile and cheese pizza at Santa Fe’s Rooftop Pizzeria being “the best spicy slice ever.” Its corn meal canvas is topped with Alfredo sauce; onions; garlic; Pecorino, Asadero and Cotija cheeses; roasted chicken and spoonfuls of roasted, chopped green chile. When the pizza comes out of the oven, it’s topped with piñon and fresh herbs. Sounds like a “best of” to me.
Several other pizzas are intriguing enough to warrant many visits to the top of the roof where the top pizza in Santa Fe has a home with a view.
600 East San Francisco Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 26 August 2012
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: Warm Roast Garlic Cloves with Lemon, Oregano and Cracked Pepper; Smoked Duck, Roast Garlic Spread, Spinach, Basil, Peppercorns and Four Cheeses on Artisan Crust Pizza; Grilled Chicken, Green Chile, Cotija and Asadero Cheeses and Toasted Pinon with Alfredo Sauce on Blue Corn Crust Pizza; BLT – Apple-Smoked Bacon, Ripe Tomato, Mozzarella, Provolone & Bleu Cheese topped with Avocado and Lettuce with Red Sauce on Artisan Crust Pizza; Prosciutto Stuffed Crimini Mushrooms