Chef Chris Cosentino, winner of Top Chef Masters and co-owner of San Francisco’s Cockscomb, Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon, and Acacia House in the Napa Valley, is opening his first restaurant in Houston–and arguably, his most personal–in September 2019 with his business partner Oliver Wharton. Rosalie Italian Soul is named after and inspired by Chris’ great-grandmother Rosalie Cosentino, a first-generation Italian immigrant who he credits for his career in cooking.
The 145-seat restaurant will be located in Downtown Houston’s C. Baldwin Hotel, also named after a formidable woman known as the “Mother of Houston,” Charlotte Baldwin Allen. The menu will feature classic red-sauce dishes reminiscent of lessons Chris learned from his great-grandmother, as well as his own interpretations. Pastas will be made fresh daily, and a pizza oven will be a focal point of the space. Expect classic Italian starters, large shared plates and daily specials like hand-pulled mozzarella or lasagna night.
“Rosalie taught me how to hand crank pasta,” said Chris. “That was my job at her house. She would hand dry all the pasta on coat hangers in the kitchen. She had a full basement in her three-story tenement in New York filled with tomatoes that she’d jarred and canned herself. Everything was personal, and she did everything by hand. She’s the inspiration for this restaurant and my inspiration my entire career.”
The menu is still under development, but Chris is working on dishes that blend the local ingredients of Houston and his family traditions: Blue crab manicotti and crab sauce Américaine; Eggplant parmesan and Rosalie’s Sunday gravy; and wood-oven Gulf shrimp Fra Diavolo.
Master Sommelier William Sherer, wine director for all of Chris and Oliver’s ventures, is building a 100-bottle list that’s fun and value-driven. The full list will be available throughout all the hotel’s bars and lounges, as well as room service.
The cocktail program will be focused on classic Italian cocktails, with multiple variations of Chris’ favorite, the Negroni.
Rohe Creative, led by Kate Rohrer and Lisa Hines, designed the space also using Rosalie Cosentino–most notably, her 1970s kitchen–as inspiration. They will weave together the comfort of home and aesthetics from this period in which Chris was learning alongside Rosalie. They were drawn to Italian mid-century design, using contrasting materials and combining geometric and organic forms of this simple yet elevated design style.
A family-style dining table anchors the bar and lounge area, symbolizing the true meaning of Italian soul. A pair of matching Murano glass chandeliers–sourced from Italy, and retro-fitted specifically for the project–hang above the table.
In the main dining room, Hollywood booths overlook the room from a raised platform. Retro TVs inset into custom walnut shelving displaying records, receivers, boom boxes and art that speak to Chef Cosentino’s story line the wall. Banquettes with denim-inspired upholstery, hand-sewn rose and floral-embroidered patches wrap the room. All furniture was designed specifically for this project marrying the Italian midcentury and spaghetti western influences, with a little nonna flare.
Annie Balest has joined the team as general manager of Rosalie. Previously, she was the general manager of Tony’s and was manager and party coordinator at the now-closed steakhouse Vallone’s. She spent six years working on the Las Vegas Strip and opened several restaurants, including Jaleo by Jose Andres.
“Annie and I opened Jaleo together nearly 10 years ago in Las Vegas,” said Oliver, “and we could not have been happier to re-connect with such a passionate restaurant professional and native Houstonian. She’ll be a major asset to our team.”
Chris is actively searching for a chef de cuisine to manage daily operations of Rosalie.
Rosalie will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. In addition, Chris and Oliver will manage all food and beverage operations in the hotel, including the Lobby Bar, a lounge, a grab and go counter, room service (dubbed “Delivery”) and all private events and meetings in the hotel. More information on these concepts will be released as they are confirmed.