Get the best of Brooklyn — in Manhattan. For a brief time, you can now sit and enjoy (and compare) two of Brooklyn’s most iconic pizzas hot from the oven, without leaving the island.
Di Fara and Roberta’s both operate “ghost kitchens” — off-site satellite setups that restaurants use to prepare takeout and delivery— at Nimbus, the unique new shared kitchen-and-community space at 196 Stanton St. on the Lower East Side.
To get both pizza brands at the same time takes a bit of keyboard work. You have to order pickup from each place ($16-$21 for a round or square six-slice pie) by using their respective Web sites. Then, pick them up and chow down in Nimbus’ spare 18-seat public eating area, possibly the only one at any of the city’s ghost kitchens. But you’ll need to act fast: Roberta’s last day at Nimbus is Sept. 7.
I was fortunate to gorge on both pies at once. As a Brooklyn-born guy who started eating pizzas at age 3, I felt heaven-sent by simultaneous tastes of Di Fara’s thin-crust, slightly crisp slices topped with imported Italian cheese and tomatoes side-by-side with Roberta’s sweet-and-sizzling “bee sting” with soppressata and honey.
Neither outdid the other. The pleasure of each slice oozed into the next as the extra-virgin olive oil bathed my palate. The freshness and flavor were identical to the those at the actual Brooklyn locations, thanks to Nimbus’ custom ovens that replicate the results of the originals. They’re also operated by each individual restaurant’s own team of cooks.
Nimbus is the brainchild of co-founders Camilla Opperman, 27, and Samantha Slager, 29. Opperman’s only previous professional food experience was managing a late-night snack cafe when she was earning degrees in political science and art history at Yale.
It was a far cry from the sophisticated slices on offer at Nimbus. “From 10 p.m. until morning, we had really unhealthy food on the menu like the Manwich, a 25-cent grilled cheese with buffalo chicken tenders on it,” she laughed. Another college creation was the “Camillama,” an Eggo waffles-and-cookies affair.
Opperman’s love of (better) food and desire to empower businesses through what she calls “elevated, flexible and affordable kitchen spaces” led her to launch Nimbus at the beginning of the year. It opened its kitchens on Jan. 11 but only began to welcome the public into its barely decorated front room a few weeks ago.
In addition to the pizza places, the current lineup of long-term tenants includes Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Caracas Arepa Bar and the popular Rockaways Mexican joint Tacoway Beach. Nimbus rents its ground-floor and basement space from the owner of a modern apartment building at the eastern end of Stanton Street; each kitchen user in turn pays monthly rent to Nimbus. Some 40-odd local restaurants also operate out of smaller stations at Nimbus, paying by the hour.
So far, the kitchens have handled more than 15,000 takeout and delivery orders. Opperman and Slager also have plans to present community-friendly events where locals can meet and mingle with the cooks. A second larger Nimbus is on tap to launch at 100 Willoughby St. in Downtown Brooklyn in November.
Also coming: two-hour tastings on Stanton Street where guests can sample offerings from all the kitchens at once. The first, held last month, was a pilot program called “Best of Brooklyn,” which featured pizza from Di Fara and Roberta’s, three tasty styles of chicken wings from Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue and doughnuts by Kado Patisri.
From the beginning, Opperman, who serves as Nimbus CEO, said she wanted to pivot away from traditional ghost facilities by fostering community interaction and providing resources to small food business — especially to those run by women, which she said comprise 60% of Nimbus users.
She met Slager, who oversees marketing, in early 2019. “I knew what to do on the operational side, but I needed help on the business side,” Opperman said. Though also new to the restaurant world, Slager had an extensive background in marketing and made the perfect partner.
The pair raised roughly $1.4 million to get Nimbus off the ground. But, “it was a labor of love with blood, sweat and tears,” Opperman said. “Sam and I were literally scrubbing floors and toilets at the beginning.” They now have a team of eight employees — and many happy customers.
“When we opened in January and peeled back the construction paper, the neighborhood literally lit up” over having better takeout and delivery options than locals were used to, Opperman said. “Now, it’s a pleasure to let them inside as well.”