The cool, well-balanced tiramisu at Rosalie.

Image: Julie Soefer

Back during the spring Southern Smoke festival in 2019, I watched as chef Chris Cosentino basically dumped a bunch of humongous grilled shrimp on a platter. They were going to have a kick. "From the devil," he said, translating the key sauce ingredient "fra diavolo." 

He assured that it wouldn't be that fiery, and no, it wasn't. Peppery with a sting up top, the shrimp instantly cooled thanks to a generous mashing of mint mixed into the dish. The idea with the shrimp fra diavolo is just to dive in with your fork (but really your hands—get a little oily and don't mind what your dining partners think). The rustic dish instantly relaxed me, though if I'm being fair, Cosentino's extremely casual nature helped a little, too.

Rosalie, the chef's big Houston debut, expands on that personal, casual touch in a very cute setting—shelves filled with boxy televisions, poster-sized magazines, and other remnants of the 1970s—patterned after his grandmother's house in Providence, Rhode Island, which has one of the best Italian food scenes in America. You're getting the family sit-down experience, just in chic digs with a whole roulette of servers and professionals stopping by every few minutes to check in and chat. It's as homey as a sparkling downtown hotel's restaurant can be.

There are plenty of dishes to highlight from the kitchen at Rosalie (helmed by executive chef Sasha Grumman), but I really enjoy that shrimp, hidden under a forest of herbs and curled red onions and lain atop a much thinner version of that spicy fra diavolo sauce that recalls Korean chili oil. I wish there was a little more on the plate, especially considering a big ol' orange takes up a good bit of space and you pay $24 for it all, but I can't deny the warm feeling I get from snacking away at every last piece of shrimp.

Afterward, the well-balanced tiramisu from pastry chef Valerie Trasatti provides the perfect contrast. There are a lot of after-dinner drinks (even an after-dinner beer pairing), plus fun cocktails for before the meal. While it's in the ritzy C. Baldwin Hotel and looks marvelous, it's just a casual, homestyle restaurant that's doing a lot of things well ... with a little kick.

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