Before a recent dinner at Rosie Cannonball, my dining companion and I stopped into Goodnight Charlie’s next door for a drink, and a patron there told us to get the mint gelato. “We’ll leave some room,” my companion told him.
Rosie is the third piece of a four-part Montrose complex from Goodnight Hospitality, joining hipster honky tonk Charlie’s and wine bar/shop Montrose Cheese & Wine, with a concept called March, billed as an intimate fine-dining experience with a chef’s tasting menu, on the way. All are joint endeavors between master sommeliers David Keck and June Rodil, chef Felipe Riccio, and restaurateur Peter McCarthy.
Named by McCarthy’s 5-year-old daughter for maximum adorableness, Rosie is well-appointed, with soft beige walls and lots of cacti. It opened last August to much fanfare, and rightly so. The food is outstanding. The western Mediterranean menu features wood-oven-fired pizzas, rustic meat dishes, pastas, and plenty of bread and cheese, with many of the ingredients sourced from the McCarthy family’s Good Thyme Farm in Bellville. In addition to dinner service, the restaurant offers truncated lunch and late-night menus that also include an excellent house burger.
As you might expect, there’s plenty of good wine here, from small-batch French Beaujolais to hard-to-find Italian bottles, with sommeliers at the ready to guide you and offer samples. In a nice touch, on some nights your server may start you with a complimentary welcome pour of sparkling Lambrusco. That kind of gesture is something I’d love to see more of in the Houston dining scene.
You don’t have to be a big spender to enjoy yourself here. The entrées are reasonable, several wines-by-the-glass come in at less than $13, and every drink on the cocktail list is $12—get the deliciously herbaceous gin and tonic or the tasty licorice-laced bourbon drink called the Glass Cannon.
Selecting a starter is a choose-your-own-adventure where no answer is wrong. One must-order is the highly addictive focaccia di Recco, in which layers of robiola cheese and mortadella are sandwiched between wafer-thin slices of crispy, bubbly bread. I also love the matrimonio, in which thin slices of green apple are topped with fresh anchovies and fried garlic, and the pork and beef meatballs in cheesy polenta.
The menu features five substantial vegetable dishes, the highlight of which is the grilled hen of the woods mushrooms—served with chiles in a silky preserved-lemon-and-egg-yolk emulsion—that looks like it was created by Tim Burton. Elsewhere all entries on the short list of pastas are masterful, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the tortellini filled with prosciutto and mortadella, which arrives swimming in a light chicken and pork broth.
The wood oven at Rosie plays a starring role, and lucky guests can snag seats right in front of it and enjoy the show. The oven brings the right smoky touch to the chicken Basquaise, which is zipped up with Good Thyme Farm tomatoes and peppers. And then there are the pizzas, their golden crusts decorated with plenty of char and air bubbles. The standout is the sumptuous fennel sausage version with bright-green pesto, creamy mozzarella, and smoked ricotta. Elsewhere a unique smoked trout roe pie with stracciatella cheese is a wallop of silky and smoky flavors, although it’s more of a flatbread than a pizza, as its crust is baked before the addition of cold toppings.
Now, getting back to that item we heard about over at Goodnight Charlie’s. The mint gelato, made from cocoa nibs and Good Thyme’s own fresh herbs, is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, although as this issue went to press I learned that it's not currently on the menu. I hope they bring it back. In the meantime there are a number of other winners here, among them the soft, airy, crustless tarta de queso (ask for a side of dulce de leche) and off-menu salted chocolate chip cookies.
There are times when it seems that Goodnight Hospitality is planning to take over Montrose completely, as McCarthy’s wife, Bailey, runs the Biscuit Home shop down the street, and the group also has plans to open a boutique hotel in the area. It’s hard to complain about that when a restaurant is as comfortable, as friendly, as simply stunning as Rosie Cannonball.