Houston’s New Intimate Italian Restaurant Gives Cooking a Great-Grandmother Could Love a Celebrity Chef Twist

Your First Taste Look at Rosalie Italian Soul

BY Laurann Claridge // 12.02.19

Not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up with their great-grandmother. But chef Chris Cosentino was, and his Italian great-grandmama Rosalie’s impact on his life and career is quite evident in Rosalie Italian Soul, the intimate restaurant named for her in the new C. Baldwin hotel in downtown Houston.

A first-generation Italian immigrant who settled in Rhode Island, Rosalie Consentino left behind the authentic Italian ingredients of her homeland and made do with comparable foodstuff she found on American soil.

The new restaurant from her great grandson, and his business partner Oliver Wharton, is an homage to the matriarch and the food of Consentino’s youth: the red-sauce circuit dishes — from eggplant parmesan to ravioli and cannoli — that have proliferated through Little Italy American communities coast to coast.

Celebrity chef Cosentino (who co-owns Cockscomb in San Francisco; Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon; and Acacia House in Napa Valley) gained fame for his cooking prowess on season four of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, which he won.

Lured to Houston for this opportunity, he turned to the designers at Philadelphia-based Rohe Creative to reimagine his great-grandmother’s house with retro television consoles, vintage Joy of Cooking cookbooks, fern-and-rose-patterned curtains, and houseplants galore, from philodendra and English ivy to ferns and birds of paradise tucked in corners and trailing from macramé holders.

Executive chef Sasha Grumman, chef/co-owner Chris Cosentino, co-owner Oliver Wharton (Photo by Nuray Taylor)
Executive chef Sasha Grumman, chef/co-owner Chris Cosentino, co-owner Oliver Wharton (Photo by Nuray Taylor)

Take a seat in one of the elevated leather Hollywood booths, and let Cosentino and talented executive chef Sasha Grumman (Launderette, Austin; Cockscomb, San Francisco) take you back to his childhood with Italian-American dishes made modern.

The Caesar salad is a carefully constructed mound of little gem lettuce leaves coated in a dressing as close to Caesar salad creator Cardini’s as you might imagine — save for the addition of fresh anchovies, which I adore — topped with coarse breadcrumbs and grated parm ($11).

For appetizers, try the Sicilian-inspired tuna crudo with Red Boat (a Vietnamese fish sauce made from the first pressing of fermented black anchovy), orange zest, capers, shaved fennel, red onion, extra-virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar ($16), or the tomato toast, a thick slice of Italian bread soaked in milled tomato then seared and layered with cherry tomatoes, basil salad, and whipped stracciatella cheese ($12).

Inside the glass-enclosed pizza kitchen, a pizzaiolo shovels 14-inch rounds pulled to order and topped with prosciutto ($15), four cheeses ($14), pepperoni ($14), and various meats and peppers ($16) into the oven’s wide mouth.

Pastas are handmade daily and include manicotti stuffed with blue crab ($19) and shells and clams, served with white or spicy red clam sauce; the conchiglie pasta cradles the minced clams and sauce ($18). Move on to hearty mains such as bistecca Fiorentina ($110) and chicken Milanese ($45).

Desserts are crafted by pastry chef Valerie Trassati and include a plate of Italian cookies, unctuous soft-serve ice cream, a not-too-sweet apple crostata, tiramisu and cannoli ($10 each).

The wine list (like the cocktail list) is Italian-focused and divided by tiers priced $45 and under, $60 and under, $80 and under, and $120 and under, with a wide range of wines available by the glass.

Enjoy a bit of tipple after your meal? Ask beverage director Jay Pyle to assemble a “study” of Amaro liqueur for you, and he’ll send out a trio of Italian after-dinner digestifs he finds especially worthwhile ($15).

Rosalie Italian Soul at the C. Baldwin hotel, 400 Dallas Street, Houston, 713.351.5790.

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