In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is wonderful to see the restaurants of lower Manhattan bouncing back, with queues of people snaking out of their doors once more. This is certainly the case at Rosemary’s, a bustling West Village trattoria that will delight locavores – those with a passion for locally grown food. I first sampled chef Wade Moises’s simple pasta and primi dishes late last summer, when the eatery was in full open-air mode – its floor-to-ceiling glass windows were wide open and there was an inviting hum in the air.
The lofty informality of the room really sets the mood: rustic, exposed rafters and simple parquet floors are reminiscent of a Tuscan farmhouse; potted plants and tiny strings of white lights contribute to the chic barn effect, and the cheerful cacophony – not to mention the long wait for unreserved tables – whets the appetite for an atmospheric meal.
In addition to a simple, delicious menu – everything from house-made testa to bistecca gran mela for two, via endless antipasti and insalate – there is an urban agrarian vibe. The staff are knowledgeable about daily specials and take great pride in explaining ingredients that have been sourced from the restaurant’s rooftop garden (third picture) in the warmer months.
The menu has a classic Italian bias and lends itself to sharing; small plates of warm olives, auberginecaponata and zucchinicrudo, as well asfocaccia with rosemary and Maldon sea salt, make perfect starters, as do classic platters of mixed salumi. I loved a simple celery Caesar salad with flavourful breadcrumbs, calamari infused with chilli oil and the bowls of pasta – orecchiette with homemade sausage and good old spaghetti al pomodoro, which was one of the best I’ve tried. Sides of braised greens, roasted potatoes and seasonal squash round out meals that are further enhanced by one of the restaurant’s reasonably priced wines and microbrewed beers.
I am already looking forward to a springtime visit when the windows will once again be flung open and the rooftop farm will be in full bloom. In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle for a hearty acqua pazza – its version of this seafood stew in “crazy water” incorporates preserved lemon potatoes and pesto crostini – served with a heavy dose of New Year’s cheer.