Famed West Coast Restaurateurs Plan New Downtown Houston Hotel Restaurant

Chris Cosentino and Oliver Wharton

Chef Chris Cosentino, a West Coast restaurateur and Top Chef Masters winner who first came to prominence with his original restaurant, Incanto in San Franciso (now closed), has since opened three new eateries on that side of the country. These include Cockscomb, also in San Francisco, Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon and Acacia House at Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Napa Valley. As announced yesterday at a press conference at The Hay Merchant, he’s now got a restaurant planned for Houston. It’s an “Italian soul” restaurant named Rosalie and it’s being called “his most personal” concept to-date. Cosentino is opening it along with business partner Oliver Wharton.

Cosentino happened to be in Houston anyway for the announcement, as he was participating in chef Chris Shepherd’s new Southern Smoke Spring fundraiser series, which just concluded yesterday. Rosalie is named for Cosentino’s great-grandmother, a first-generation Italian immigrant. According to a press release, the chef credits her for inspiring his cooking career.

Young Chris Cosentino and his great-grandmother
A four-year-old Chris Cosentino and his great-grandmother Rosalie Cosentino. Photo courtesy of Chris Cosentino.

“Rosalie taught me how to hand crank pasta,” said Cosentino via a press release. “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 145-seat restaurant is slated for the C. Baldwin Hotel at 400 Dallas in Allen Center and, thanks to its location, is serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually, according to the press release, the effort is far more ambitious than just opening a restaurant, as Cosentino and Wharton are in charge of all food operations for the hotel. This includes “a grab and go counter, room service (dubbed “Delivery”) and all private events and meetings in the hotel.”

Rosalie dining room rendering
A rendering of the future Rosalie dining room. Rendering by ROHE Creative.

Rohe Creative is in charge of design and the company is taking inspiration from Rosalie Cosentino’s 1970s kitchen. Some kitschy design elements from that decade include inset retro televisions, vinyl records displayed on walnut shelving and old stereo receivers. Other features include a family-style dining table and Murano glass chandeliers sourced from Italy and modified for the space.

As might be expected by the “Italian soul” description, Rosalie’s menu is showcasing red-sauce dishes as well as pizza and specials such as hand-pulled mozzarella and lasagna.

Cosentino is also working on dishes that take some inspiration from Houston. Some examples are Blue Crab Manicotti and Crab Sauce Américaine and wood oven-fired Gulf Shrimp Fra Diavolo.

blue crab manicotti at Rosalie
One Gulf coast-inspired dish planned for Rosalie is this Blue Crab Manicotti with crab sauce Américaine. Photo by Catchlight Photography.

Annie Balest is the general manager and for patrons of Tony’s or the now-closed Vallone’s, she’ll serve as a familiar face on the scene. A decade ago, she worked with Wharton to open Las Vegas restaurant Jaleo.

William Sherer, a master sommelier who is wine director for Cosentino and Wharton’s other endeavors, is tasked with developing a 100-bottle list that’s described as “fun and value-driven.” Sherer’s list is not only being served throughout the restaurant but is available at the C. Baldwin hotel’s bars and via room service. The cocktail focus is on classic Italian concoctions and is including multiple Negroni variations.

The C. Baldwin Hotel is replacing the current Downtown Doubletree in June and the new hotel is celebrating an official grand opening October 10. Rosalie is slated to open in September. Yes, that means there’s a gap in between over the summer, but interested diners can keep up with progress via Rosalie’s Instagram account for the most current information.

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