Rosalie is back with handmade pastas.
Rosalie private dining room (Photo by Julie Soefer)
Rosalie's hanger steak shows this restaurant's food power.
Rosalie chef Jacob Coronado
Rosalie's pepperoni pizza shows the care that are put into these pies.
Rosalie's dining room is meant to evoke a family home. (Photo by ROHE Creative)
Rosalie's dining room is a homey place. (Photo by Julie Soefer)
Chef Chris Cosentino
Not everyone was lucky enough to grow up with their great-grandmother during those formative years of their youth. But chef Chris Cosentino did, and the impact his Italian nonna Rosalie would have on his life and career is evident in the intimate restaurant he named for her at the C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown Houston. The chic hotel (formerly a Doubletree) opened in late 2019 with a splashy fete that left people chattering for weeks about the sleek Curio brand remodel and its newly installed restaurant dubbed Rosalie Italian Soul. Yet the fanfare quickly ground to a halt a few short months later when the COVID pandemic reared its ugly head.
But Rosalie Italian Soul has reopened for lunch and dinner service — and Cosentino’s touch is still evident.
The first-generation Italian-American whose immigrant family settled in Rhode Island, like so many who came to the United States searching for a better life, left behind their homeland’s authentic Italian ingredients and made do with whatever vaguely similar foodstuffs they could find on American soil. Rosalie Italian Soul is an homage to the family matriarch Rosalie Cosentino, and the food of her great-grandson’s youth.
That means the red-sauce circuit dishes from eggplant parmesan to ravioli to manicotti proliferated throughout every Little Italy American community coast to coast.
Cosentino gained fame for his prowess of cooking nose to tail as a celebrity chef and co-owner of the hotel restaurants in Portland (Jackrabbit) and the Napa Valley (Acacia House). And he’s no stranger to those macho, televised cooking competitions either. Cosentino even won Top Chef Masters Season Four several years ago.
Lured to Houston for this C Baldwin hotel opportunity, he turned to the designers at Philadelphia-based Rohe Creative to reimagine Rosalie’s house as the dining room’s backdrop. Here the fun, kitsch space is adorned with retro television consoles, volumes of vintage Joy of Cooking cookbooks, fern-and-rose strewn patterned curtains (replicas of Rosalie’s very own), and houseplants galore from Philodendrons and English ivy.
Take a seat in one of the elevated leather Hollywood booths and let Cosentino and his talented new executive chef Jacob Coronado (formerly of Nobie’s) take you back to his childhood with Italian-American dishes made modern.
With Rosalie reopened for lunch and dinner service — as well as online order pickup — Cosentino’s Caesar salad starter ($13), which I tried on my first visit, is a carefully constructed pile of little gem lettuce leaves coated in that famed dressing as close to the original Cardini’s as you might imagine. Don’t miss the arancini app ($10) with a creamy pesto aioli for dipping, perfectly fried light orbs of plumped arborio rice which, when cut open, ooze melted mozzarella. Or great-grandma’s meatballs ($12), two tender meatballs covered in traditional tomato gravy.
The wine list is Italian-focused and divided by tiers priced at $45, $60, $80 and $120 and under, with a wide range of wines by the glass available. The cocktail list is a twist on Italian classics from the Hugo Spritz ($12), a bubbly prosecco cocktail with cucumber water and St. Germain or my favorite, Jessica Rabbit, a Blanco tequila base tinged with a sour cherry molasses and ginger.
A centerpiece of the restaurant is the glass-enclosed pizza kitchen where a pizzaiolo shovels 16-inch hand-stretched rounds of made-to-order pizzas into its wide mouth topped with pepperoni ($18) and various meats and peppers ($21). Pastas are handmade daily and include a riff on a classic seldom seen today: manicotti ($26) stuffed with local blue crab and handmade ravioli ($18) stuffed with fresh ricotta napped with nutty brown butter and crisp sage leaves.
Move on to hearty mains and sate yourself with a bone-in ribeye ($95), snapper with capers and wild mushrooms with the bite of arugula ($31) and chicken dressed with lemon juice and cracked olives ($26). Desserts (all $9) include unctuous soft serve ice creams (I especially adore the rich vanilla), a not too sweet chocolate bundino (the Italian’s decadent answer to chocolate pudding) topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
Enjoy a bit of tipple after your meal? Request that food and beverage director David Tinsley put together a “study” of Amaro liqueur for you, and he’ll send out a trio of Italian after-dinner digestifs he finds especially worthwhile.
Rosalie Italian Soul, The C. Baldwin Hotel, 400 Dallas Street, 713.351.5790.