Cosentino is coming

Top Chef superstar's first-ever Houston restaurant serves up Italian soul

Top Chef star's first-ever Houston restaurant serves up Italian soul

Rosalie’s Italian Soul Chris Cosentino Oliver Wharton
Top Chef Masters star Chris Cosentino and partner Oliver Wharton.  Photo by Mark Mediana
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Wood-oven Gulf Shrimp Fra Diavolo with grapefruit and mint. Photo by Catchlight Group
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Eggplant Parmesan with Rosalie's Sunday gravy. Photo by Catchlight Group
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Blue crab manicotti with crab sauce Américaine. Photo by Catchlight Group
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Rosalie's vibrant interior.  Photo courtesy of Rohe Creative
Rosalie’s Italian Soul Chris Cosentino Oliver Wharton
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Rosalie’s Italian Soul
Rosalie’s Italian Soul

Another star chef has set his sights on Houston. Top Chef Masters winner and West Coast sensation Chris Cosentino is partnering with Oliver Wharton for Rosalie’s Italian Soul in downtown’s C Baldwin Hotel. With an opening slated for September, Houstonians can expect homemade Italian dishes, created from a deeply personal place.

“Rosalie taught me how to hand crank pasta,” says Cosentino in a statement. “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.”

Rosalie was the great-grandmother who taught him to cook. Charlotte Baldwin Allen was “the mother of Houston.” Fitting, then, these two concepts would find each other.

While the menu is still being finalized for the 145-seat restaurant, Cosentino indicates it will feature classic red-sauce dishes reminiscent of lessons Chris learned from his great-grandmother, a first-generation Italian immigrant, as well as his own interpretations. Pastas will be made fresh daily, and a pizza oven will be a focal point of the space. Expect classic Italian starters, large shared plates and daily specials like hand-pulled mozzarella or lasagna night.

Meanwhile, master sommelier William Sherer, wine director for all of Chris and Oliver’s ventures, is building a 100-bottle list that incorporates both fun and value. It will be available throughout all the hotel’s bars and lounges, and guests can order up selections from room service as well. The cocktail program spotlights classic Italian libations, including multiple variations of Chris’ favorite, the Negroni.

Giving a nod to both the restaurant’s name and the concept that the Italian soul is inextricable from the table, a family-style dining table anchors the bar and lounge area. A pair of matching Murano glass chandeliers — sourced from Italy, and retro-fitted specifically for the project — hang above the table.

In the main dining room, Hollywood booths overlook the room from a raised platform. Retro TVs inset into custom walnut shelving displaying records, receivers, boom boxes, and art that speaks to Chef Cosentino’s story line the wall. Banquettes with denim-inspired upholstery, hand-sewn rose and floral-embroidered patches wrap the room.

Rohe Creative, led by Kate Rohrer and Lisa Hines, lent their designs to the space, drawing inspiration from Rosalie’s 1970s kitchen to create a restaurant than echoes the comforts of home. Italian mid-century design, using contrasting materials and combining geometric and organic forms, elevate the interior style. All the furniture was designed specifically for this project marrying the Italian mid-century and spaghetti western influences, with a little nonna flare.

Cosentino is actively searching for a chef de cuisine to manage daily operations of Rosalie. Meanwhile, Annie Balest, the former general manager of Tony’s and manager and party coordinator at the now-shuttered Vallone’s is on board as GM. Rosalie will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

In addition, Cosentino and Wharton will manage C Baldwin’s food and beverage operations, including the Lobby Bar, a lounge, a grab-and-go counter, and room service.