Friday, September 20, 2013

Lunch | Rosemary's Enoteca & Trattoria

(Don't worry -- I'll be resuming my Seattle posts soon!)

This past Wednesday, Jess and I decided to play hooky for the day as we had tickets to go a taping of the food talk show, The Chew, that morning with Lisa and Tiffany. After we got to see an amazing episode dedicated to the glorious cheeseburger, Tiff went back to work, and Jess and I began our festivities for the day with a little shopping followed by lunch at Rosemary's Enoteca & Trattoria, where enoteca is Italian for "wine bar" and trattoria is an Italian restaurant that serves simple food (essentially less formal than a ristorante but more formal than an osteria).

Jess had come for a late dinner earlier this summer, and I remember saying to her that we needed to come back here together as I'd never been but heard great things. What I also didn't know about Rosemary's is that it not only is an Italian restaurant but it is one with a rooftop farm and created by owner Carlos Suarez (of Bobo fame). The restaurant's name is named after his mother, as it is "inspired by both her home in Lucca, Tuscany as well as the rich heritage of the restaurant's Greenwich Village corner." Chef Wade Moises overseas the kitchen, "serving seasonal Italian dishes that highlight the herbs and produce from the rooftop farm, as well as housemade pastas and a selection of focacce, as an homage to the location's predecessor, Sutter's Bakery."

Rosemary's has a beautifully understated dining room, which opens up to the long bar in the rear of the restaurant. It is simultaneously airy, breezy, gently energetic, and unpretentious. Tables are spread out at a comfortable distance while still remaining cozy.

That extra touch of exposed brick adds character from the restaurant's home of the Greenwich Village, underscoring the urban-rustic ambiance of its interiors.

View from our table.

Jess mentioned how even more gorgeous Rosemary's is during the evening hours, especially with the spaced out rows of industrially bulbed twinkle lights. The windows open like doors in the spring/summer, too!

I first heard about Rosemary's thanks to a review by New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells I read last summer. I was turned off by the prospect of the crazy wait times, so I left the restaurant on the back burner until NY Times contributor Jeff Gordinier wrote another piece about Rosemary's, specifically about one of its original and noteworthy dishes and how Chef Moises spent a decade "tinkering" with it (please read it -- it's one of the most interesting articles I read last year). The dish? The octopus salame on the fruitti di mare section of the menu. Besides the obvious part of it being an octopus dish (I almost always order it if I see it on the menu :P), the photograph of the dish alone got me totally intrigued -- Mr. Gordinier's description of it appearing "like a trompe-l’oeil depiction of some ancient myth involving a sea monster" was simply spot-on. And it was exactly what I had imagined it would be and more:

The octopus salame is garnished with "some olive oil, a few shreds of basil, and miniature clusters of pickled vegetables" (which the menu describes as "Siclian gardiniere" including cauliflower and peppers). The first step in making this mysterious octopus salame is braising fresh octopus for two or three hours with oranges, white wine, olive oil, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Next, Chef Moises and his team "pack the octopus into a mold with a binder made of gelatin, red wine vinegar liquid from the braising and some of that aranciata rossa fizz." As mentioned in the article, Chef Moises has a "crucial secret" about the dish -- the snappy, inexplicably refreshing aspect of the dish comes from Italian soda sold by San Pellegrino (specfically, the aranciata rossa -- blood orange -- flavor). He says the Italian soda "adds a hint of sweetness, fruitiness, and effervescence to help balance the intense flavor of the octopus cooking liquor." After all this is done, the octopus is chilled, hardening in the mold so that it becomes a terrine. The end result are these two charcuterie-like slices of octopus salame laid out perfectly on a wooden board, going down in history as one of the best octopus dishes I've ever had, mainly because it tastes not only so different than any other preparation (the closest would be the slow-poached octopus from 15 East), but so perfect and sublime in execution and taste. Just the right amount of olive oil, pucker from the pickled veggies, snap from the Italian soda, light tartness from the citrus, a touch of herbiness from the basil, and a chilly tenderness from the octopus itself. The awesome factor from this dish is just further testament to the persistence and patience Chef Moises had with an idea turned dream -- one certainly for the books!

Among the many things that are made in house includes the focaccia di Recco -- warm focaccia bread filled with stracchino cheese (a cow's milk cheese) and topped with a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt and infused with a generous amount of rosemary. Definitely needs to be ordered for the table to share (...or not, hahaha) as the bread is unbelievably warm and soft, with the stracchino oozing with a subtle creaminess. If you're not feeling in the cheesy bread mood, there's always the good ol' plain focaccia to tie you over, so don't you fret! :P

Instead of ordering a contorni as a side dish to be shared, Jess and I got an order of roasted Brussels sprouts in balsamic with mustard seeds. The balsamic was a nice glaze over the leafy sprouts, which packed in some great flavor. Quite delicious, especially when in season -- made for a great "salad" dish to start for us.

Jess and I each tried the fresh homemade cavatelli with braised beef flat iron and an heirloom tomato sauce. HOLY MOLY, this pasta blew us away. The pasta was so fresh while holding the heirloom tomato sauce and braised beef really nicely. Plus, the tomato sauce had a fresh garden sweetness to it -- there were some yellow tomatillos mixed in playfully and gave little explosions of heirloom juice -- with a savoriness as a direct result of the braising of the beef. This portion was very fitting for lunch, leaving me wanting just a few more bites, but realizing we'd better not.

Findings: I absolutely loved everything about Rosemary's Enoteca & Trattoria. I don't care about whatever idea of false hype keeps coming to the surface from naysayers -- this spot is not only beautiful but has some pretty solid Italian trattoria fare. We had nothing but delicious celebrations with each of our lunch courses -- first with the painterly octopus salame that was simply out of this world; second with the warm, gooey focaccia di Recco; and lastly with the sweet yet savory cavatelli that remains hauntingly satisfying in my mind.Though I didn't drink any wine on this visit, the selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle are pretty affordable ($10 by the glass, $40 by the bottle), so dining here with a group could be quite fun! Anyways, I am looking forward to my next visit to Rosemary's (already planning two meals here as I write this -- one as a GNO and one as a birthday lunch for Marcus!) -- can't wait to eat through the rest of the menu and start tackling the wine list! :)

Price point: $8 for each focacce, $10 for each frutti di mare, $13 for each pasta, $6 for each contorni.

--September 18, 2013

Rosemary's Enoteca & Trattoria
18 Greenwich Avenue
New York, NY 10011

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