The postcard-pretty private room at Rosalie.

Image: Jenn Duncan

The first thing about Rosalie: it's so pretty. Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino created the cozy restaurant—his Houston debut—as a love letter to his great-grandmother, Rosalie, who cooked elaborate Italian family meals in her Providence, Rhode Island, kitchen. Nestled inside downtown’s posh C. Baldwin Hotel, the restaurant is utterly nostalgic, resembling a comfy, mid-century American home.

The front bar, with its cozy lounge area, feels like a dimly lit living room, while a window into the kitchen affords a glimpse of the restaurant’s centerpiece, a ceramic-tile pizza oven painted with goldenrod roses. In the wood-paneled dining room, shelves hold thrift-store finds like cookbooks, vinyl record sleeves, and retro tube televisions, surrounding banquettes that encourage diners to sink in.

The friendly, attentive service is down-home, too. Ask for a wine recommendation, and the on-duty sommelier will guide you through the selections, which range from familiar Napa vinos to playful French and Italian ones. Debate the menu for too long, and a manager just might present you with a plate of lovely arancini on the house.

Rigatoni and burrata with a cookie plate at Rosalie

Image: Jenn Duncan

If one bite of those arancini, or the airy, rosemary-brightened focaccia, or the creamy house-pulled burrata with forest-green pesto doesn’t convince, know that this is well-imagined and -executed Italian comfort food by Cosentino and chef Sasha Grumman, whose résumé includes a spell at Cockscomb, Cosentino’s San Francisco eatery, and a stint leading Austin’s Launderette.

The menu revolves around the manicotti, a recipe straight from the notes of Rosalie herself. In this standout, two delicate, handmade “little sleeves” are stuffed with blue crab meat and packed tight beneath a bubbling lobster sauce Américaine. Another must-try is the beautifully crafted rigatoni in a robust wild boar ragù, topped with a runny egg.

Of course, one of the biggest draws here is the pizza, wood-fired in that show-stopping oven to produce a crispy, bubbly crust on sturdy pies like the tangy four cheese with quadrello di bufala, mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan.

Cosentino brings a little New England quirkiness to Texas with his outstanding calamari starter, which comes Rhode Island–style: coated in olive oil and topped with hot peppers and onion rings. I also recommend the entrée of whole shrimp in piquant Fra Diavolo sauce with charred onions and mint.

Rosalie also offers a few large-format dishes: Try the hefty chicken Milanese, a by-the-book interpretation that’s great for sharing and perfectly juicy, though I’d like to see Grumman attempt some variations on the traditional recipe.

Desserts are delicious, if not entirely original; a nicely balanced tiramisu or a plate of traditional Italian cookies pairs great with an after-dinner stout. The most interesting detour is a bittersweet bay leaf–and–blueberry panna cotta.

(Left) The warm main dining room at Rosalie; (Right) Chris Cosentino with his great-grandmother

Image: Jenn Duncan

At Rosalie, the re-creation of tried-and-true recipes prevails over experimentation. While I would have appreciated a signature dish with a wow factor—the manicotti and calamari are the closest it gets—the good news is that everything here delivers. There are few places in Houston where I’d rather relax and enjoy a meal. Rosalie feels a lot like home, only more beautiful.

What to order

  • Calamari
  • Blue crab manicotti
  • Whole shrimp fra diavolo

Price

  • Breakfast $3–17
  • Snacks $7–9
  • Starters $10–16
  • Boards $16–30
  • Pizza $12–16,
  • Pasta $14–19
  • Daily specials $16–22
  • Entrées $19–35
  • Large format $37–110
  • Sides $6–7
  • Desserts $6–8

Rosalie Italian Soul. C. Baldwin Hotel, 400 Dallas St. 713-351-5790

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