Chris Cosentino, a renowned celebrity chef who is known for appearances on Top Chef Masters and The Next Iron Chef, is opening an Italian restaurant in Houston.
At a press conference Thursday at The Hay Merchant in Montrose, chef Chris Shepherd announced that Cosentino, who won season four of Top Chef Masters in 2016, and is co-owner at Cockscomb in San Francisco; Jackrabbit at The Duniway in Portland, Oregon; and Acacia House at Las Alcobas in Napa Valley; will be opening Rosalie, an "approachable" Italian restaurant, around September at the C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown Houston.
Rosalie gets its name from Cosentino's great-grandmother, an Italian immigrant who taught him how to hand-crank pasta and make tomato sauce (or gravy). He promises dishes that connect to that past, including eggplant Parmesan with Sunday gravy, blue crab manicotti and crab sauce Americaine, and wood-oven Gulf shrimp fra diavolo.
Thursday evening at One Fifth Mediterranean, Cosentino previewed those dishes while cooking a multi-course meal with Boston-based James Beard-winning chef Jamie Bissonnette, Shepherd, and his One Fifth team at the finale dinner for the Southern Smoke festival's spring edition. Expect innovation on well-beloved Italian fare; for example, the spicy, fragrant fra diavolo could be mistaken for a crawfish boil broth, though Cosentino paired his crustaceans with grapefruit and mint, livening up a rustic, summery treat.
Cosentino said he's excited to be inspired by Houston's diverse culinary scene, hoping to incorporate as many local ingredients as he can in crafting his menu.
"It's Italy in a region called Houston," said Cosentino.
Cosentino also promises large dishes like timpano, a gargantuan, spherical-shaped feast of pasta and meats, often salami and veal or pork meatballs, plus pizza (he's been working with Phoenix-based Chris Bianco on technique), lasagna nights, and family-style dinners on Sundays.
Master Sommelier William Sherer, wine director for Cosentino's other ventures, will assemble the wine list, while the cocktail program will focus on Italian concoctions, specifically the negroni. Annie Balest, formerly the general manager at Tony's, will step in to run the front of house. Kitchen staff has not yet been named, though Cosentino is hiring both from Houston and elsewhere, and Cosentino told Houstonia he plans to spend about a week each month in town once the restaurant opens.
Rohe Creative is designing the 145-seat restaurant (2,630 square feet inside, 2,100 square feet outside) in an Italian mid-century aesthetic that at times resembles a great-grandmother's living space, befitting of Cosentino's childhood memories. Look for a sunroom dining area, a 48-seat patio, a family-style dining table in a bar/lounge, Murano glass chandeliers, booth seating in the main dining room, and vintage TVs, records, and boom boxes adding a retro punch to the restaurant.
But that isn't all. Cosentino will also run all food-and-beverage service for the C. Baldwin Hotel, which is named after Charlotte Baldwin Allen, a 19th century businesswoman who was married to Houston co-founder Augustus Chapman Allen. The hotel will transition into a Hilton Curio Collection property in June.
But how did it happen? Cosentino said the C. Baldwin team had been interested in him for some time, but it wasn't until riding around town with Shepherd, sampling pho and meeting members of the food industry, that it all clicked.
"Coming down here and spending time with him is what really, truly made me sign the contract," Cosentino said.