By Jeff Klima Rosie’s Italian Grille is all about family. Brothers Phil, John and Mike Barone started the eatery with a singular goal: make the recipes mom used to make. Of course, with Rosie steeped in the style of cooking from her native Sicily— a pinch of this, a pinch of that— actually figuring out the measurements was something else entirely. But they clearly got it right when they moved into one of their father’s buildings on Sylvania Avenue near Lewis to open up shop. Back in 1982 Rosie’s was a deli and a pizza parlor, an arcade with a hot new channel, MTV, constantly playing on the TV. What a difference 35 years makes.
Hot Mama Bread
Five store locations later and Rosie’s is now a casual fine dining destination on the corner of McCord and Nebraska and where the recipes remain unchanged. The Brothers Barone have expanded on those originals, however. Hot Mama Bread, the deliciously flavorful cheese bread which is a Rosie’s signature item, wasn’t brought from the Old Country, rather it was born, like all great inventions, out of necessity. With hungry diners lined up out the door on a busy day the brothers needed to think of something or the would-be customers might be lost to the competition. “You can tell when people are just hungry,” Phil Barone, the fourth-born of the family, says. “So we started making this bread. We made it with our pizza dough, and we started making up a sauce and we put some grande cheese on there and we brought it out to them. Just so people could have a couple pieces. And they loved the bread so much that when they sat down, they said, “I want some more of that bread, that Hot Mama Bread.” “It still blows me away, how popular it is,” Phil says of the delectable solution. “It’s doesn’t matter your age. It’s ageless. We have so many different pizzas and pastas, lamb chops and steaks and fresh fish, but that’s still up there as one of the favorites.”
“Rosie’s is a destination spot… it’s close to the airport, we have Stone Oak development that has beautiful houses, and we’ve kind of filled a niche— like a Cheers. We have a good core group of people from Stone Oak and St. James (another housing development) that come in here pretty regularly. And I think that’s what a successful restaurant needs, you’ve gotta have your core group of people. And we have that.” Those dependable regulars, eager for their Italian fix, were a major saving grace of the restaurant when McCord closed down to allow for construction of a train overpass recently. As Phil tells it, those were nervous times. But the thoroughfare is now open to traffic again, allowing new customers to find their way to the feast. The restaurant is spacious and clean, with a classy, fully-stocked bar that Phil says evokes thoughts of the Drake Hotel in Chicago with its dark wood. Patios in front and back are charming places to dine and relax in the warmer months. The booths are spacious, inviting families to sit close together for a nice meal. The lighting sets a mood. easy on the eyes, great for romantic times.
And as for the excellence of the food, look no further than Phil’s dinner companion every Friday night: his mother Rosie, now 96-years-young. She still comes out with him to dine at the restaurant and mingle with her fans— the folks who know who she is and want photos with her. Her favorite? The mussels, bathed in a spicy lemon marinara sauce. But Phil also gets her a pizza to go that she can eat on Saturdays. It’s good to know that the restaurant that bears her name is also her favorite place to dine. Definitely check Rosie’s out for yourself.
11:30am-9pm, Sunday-Thursday, 11:30am-10:30pm, Friday-Saturday. 606 N. McCord Rd. 419-866-5007. rosiesitaliangrille.com
Chicken Marsala Recipe (serves six)
6 6oz. pieces of boneless, skinless chicken 6 oz. butter 4 oz. flour 12 oz. chicken broth 12 oz. beef broth 6 oz. sweet Marsala wine 8 oz. butter 8 oz. flour 2 Tbsp chiffonad basil 4 oz. flour Salt and Pepper to taste 1 lb. thin-sliced mushroom Clean the 6 chicken breasts, then filet them in half so there are 2 thin 3 oz. pieces of chicken, continue until all six filets are prepared. In a mixing bowl, mix the 4 oz. of flour with salt and pepper, then dredge each of the 12 pieces of chicken in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Once all 12 pieces are floured, place a large sauté pan over medium heat and melt 6 oz. of butter in the pan. Once the butter is melted, start browning the chicken about 2 minutes per side, then place all the chicken on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, use the same sauté pan to make the sauce, add the mushrooms and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the Marsala wine, let that reduce for about 2 minutes, then add the chicken and beef broth and let that reduce for about 4 minutes. While you are waiting for that to reduce, mix by hand the 8 oz. of flour with the 8 oz. of butter, crumbling it together, then slowly add, while whisking constantly, to the sauce. Once the sauce is to your desired thickness, turn off the heat and add the basil and the cooked chicken. Serve.