My first exposure to Rosemary's was a postprandial stroll, where it's festive, sparkly string lights and airy, rustic interior warranted a second glance, even when sated and content from dinner at Bell Book & Candle. Perusing the attractive menu posted outside, a threesome of girls exited the restaurant, squawking violently about the horrors just endured there... not so much the food, they said, but the service was abominable, and frankly, the eats weren't good enough to override that trauma. I noted the chef: Batali-vet Wade Moises. To myself, I thought "Give it time". A colleague of Mario's shouldn't necessarily need so much of a buffer period, but it's worth keeping an eye on. And so I did, and in due time, figuring the ruffles should be ironed out and a visit due.
They're doing a lot of good stuff here: the whitewashed brick and pale wood finishings recollect a dining room I might design myself. And more importantly, the rooftop boasts an admirable garden, burgeoning peppers and eggplants, tomatoes and herbs on my visit. (Take a gander before sundown, though, because it's cordoned off after dark.) The menu makes good use of the bounty, too... although the additional of brussels sprouts (however desirable) to the sides menu was a little odd for August. But it's also a hint at one of the downsides to Rosemary's- they're definitely vying for a popularity vote. A no-reservation policy demands early or late noshing, or willingness to wait. We snuck in on the early side and procured a window seat that faced a somewhat unattractive view of the intersection: at that point the seat facing in was preferable. But when the sun sets and obscures the deli storefront, gazing out the big windows onto Jefferson Market Gardens can be lovely.
Indicative of their farm-to-table efforts, the first section of the menu is Verdure (vegetables). A little confusing, however, as there are also Contorni and Insalate that would also qualify. But cross-referencing the prices gives you a slightly better idea of their intentions, even though the Beets, Dandelion and Hazelnuts ended up to be a deceptively bigger portion than it initially appeared after we unloaded it onto a platter to share (a good idea, too, because they are a little oily, some of which disperses when unconstrained). Sweet and tender are these roots, but almost entirely bereft of any dandelion but for a few tiny shreds in such sparse quantity as is usually reserved for a pungent herb. There was another indeterminate ingredient atop though, too: I noted it's floral, earthy flavor but couldn't place it. Turned out to be bee pollen, a precious ingredient, but totally unmentioned on the menu... even the waitress didn't know what it was until I pressed her for inquiry. They definitely should've written Bee Pollen instead of Dandelion, the former which was abundant and the latter all but absent. I would've appreciated the weedy green, though, which would've rounded out the nutty beets. Then again, I guess if I wanted a salad I should've ordered from Insalate, but those options seemed a little hefty with a mozzarella one, a celery caesar with anchovies and breadcrumbs, and the chopped, which included a little bit of everything from beans, seeds, raisins, cheese, olives and capers. So much for summertime delicacy. Simplicity, however, is paramount. Spaghetti al pomodoro couldn't have been more straightforward, and shone for that.
Subtle nuance isn't the point at Rosemary's, though. The Market Fish (striped bass, that night) was a simple skin-on filet seared and bedded by snap peas and melted cherry tomatoes. According to the menu, it should have radishes as well, but they were strangely absent, like the dandelion. Skirt steak, on the other hand, boasted a forest of greens, and none of those were mentioned in its description, either.
but none of those were mentioned in its description, either. It did include some fine, crispy potatoes and a rich drizzle of balsamic jus, and benefitted from the greens for roughage. And then came those brussels sprouts, which were quite wonderful specimens.... so much that my dining companion couldn't seem to keep his fork out of them, and consequently ordered a side of his own, upon reprimand. Thou Shalt not Covet Thy Neighbor's Crucifers. You want extra veggies? Order your own. 'Cause they were good, roasted tender and nutty and sweet. Even if it was August (although to be fair, there are braised greens and summer squash as Contorni as well).
There are a scant number of dessert options, but our waitress was effusive about the olive oil cake with blueberries, so we went with that as opposed to a quaint little glass coppetta of traditional looking tiramisu, a gianduja semifreddo or some biscotti. It was tasty enough, with a nice sugary crust, but could've used twice or thrice the amount of blueberries, and a little bit more whip to the whipped cream, which spread out languidly on the plate.
For what it is, though, Rosemary's will stay popular for a spell, and perhaps a long one. It's got enough assets to please the masses, and most of the kinks have been addressed since that trio of girls proffered their warning. A little more accuracy needs to be executed on the menu, but as long as the quality keeps up with its popularity, Rosemary's will be grow beyond just being Moises' baby.