Red's 'OITNB' Restaurant In Queens Is Real... It Just Doesn't Belong to Red
Sure, we all love watching our way through favorite shows, but what if you could eat your way through them, too? If you've got a hankering for the real version of Red's restaurant from Orange is the New Black , you're in luck. Well, sort of. The pride Red takes in her cooking in Season 1 is no small part of the show. In fact, it is not only the character's source of power in prison when we first meet her, but it is also Piper's first real obstacle when she insults Red's cooking and Red starves her out. While Red's iron fist rule over inmate nutrition seems cruel and totalitarian at first, it all starts to make sense when we see her past play out. Red's flashbacks of her pre-prison life reveal she and her husband Dmitri used to own a restaurant that was also a meeting place for "very important businessmen" who were clearly some sort of Russian mob kingpins.
Red feels inadequate among their done-up trophy wives, but at her hubby's request tries to make friends with them. When an off-color joke and subsequent boob punch puts her in their bad graces, the couple is forced to do some shady stuff for their not-really-friends/customers/scary dudes who take advantage of them, and the association lands her in prison. (By the by, who caught that both Daya's mother's drug pusher boyfriend and Nicky tell the same ill-fated eggplant joke?)
So it's understandable, that by the time she finally finds her confidence (a more timid Red shows up in Season 2 flashbacks when she first enters prison and encounters "new friend" Vee) Red tied her identity to the one thing she knows how to do: plant herself behind a counter and feed people. So where should you head if you want to visit the building that housed both Red's famous cooking and some shady Russian business dealings?
If you're in New York, just head over to Rosario's Deli in Astoria, Queens. While you won't be able to chomp down on anything remotely Russian or crafted by the hands of Kate Mulgrew (the actress who portrays Red) you can grab what Serious Eats calls a "killer slice." The deli is located in the back of an Italian market, just off of the Astoria-Ditmar's N/W stop and serves pizza by the slice. In another piece, Serious Eats also points out the joint has some pretty stellar sandwiches, so if you're heading to the neighborhood for a little OITNB photo op, you shan't be disappointed if you decide to stop for a nosh.
Bonus: Paper Mag points out that Hell's Gate Bridge in Astoria Park is the site of the titular (pun intended) jab in the "Tit Punch" episode, should you and a few friends want to reenact the Russian mob wives' power walk route. While Rosario's will satisfy your appetites for the show and Italian meats and cheeses, it might not give you the Russian Red flavor you might be hunting for. So where do you go if you're actually jonesing for something a little more Eastern European? Paper cites Brooklyn's M & I International Foods for the best piroshkis (pastries Red mentions selling in Season 2), and the Brighton Beach Avenue Area in general for Ruski delights. At about 22 miles away from Rosario's though, it's a bit of a schlep if all you're up for that day is some OITNB fangirling as opposed to a quest for the best Russian cuisine in New York.
In that case, you can stick closer to home and venture somewhere in the 4-to-5 mile away range, with a smattering of choices, including the historic Russian Tea Room on W. 57th. If you want to keep it low-key and closer to Red's modest storefront, Koliba on 23rd Ave right in Astoria has some solid reviews, with a Russian Yelp reviewer singling it out as the spot she goes to get her Eastern European comfort food on, which is a pretty ringing endorsement. It's also just around the corner from Rosario's 31st Street location, making the 45 second travel time a perfect companion to your walking tour of all things Red.
Now if only someone can figure out how to get their hands on a magic chicken, we can all have a real OITNB culinary experience.