In the West Village of Manhattan, Rosemary’s has been a trendy, reliable Italian eatery with a bustling clientele since 2012. In early May 2021, Casa Nela, the restaurant group that owns it, run by Carlos Suarez, launched Rosemary’s East, adjacent to two large housing complexes, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Those apartment complexes are so large that their combined population is about 21,000 residents, a few thousand fewer than the town of Kingston, N.Y.
Casa Nela owns a series of high-end restaurants in Manhattan including Bobo, Claudette, Roey’s, with one overseas eatery, Rosemary’s Tokyo in partnership with Café Company.
To succeed in these post-pandemic times, it takes more than an indoor sit-down eatery. Rosemary’s East, for example, is a multi-faceted indoor and outdoor restaurant that accommodates 120 people inside, 100 guests on its outside patio, and 50 people at the wine bar.
Owner Suarez says Rosemary’s East was slated to open in May of 2020, and then the pandemic hit, which slowed everything down. His sympathetic landlord allowed them to postpone its debut until May of 2021. “We didn’t want to open and then close it down,” he notes.
Now that it’s getting warmer in New York City and Covid numbers are way down, the timing is ripe for a new eatery, Suarez indicates. “New York has been resilient despite reports of people leaving the city,” he adds.
At Rosemary’s East, also referred to as Rosemary’s or Rosemary’s Stuytown, it can slide the doors open, and let the air flow through the eatery. When this reporter dined there with a friend on a sultry spring night, the light and spaciousness made it feel like a beach eatery near Santa Monica.
Rosemary’s specializes in “farm to table Italian cooking, at affordable rates. Its food that is made by hand that doesn’t have to be super expensive,” Suarez explains.
Rosemary’s East combines pizza and pasta under the same roof whereas on the West Side, Rosemary’s offers pasta and Roey’s, two blocks away, pizza. Sometimes a guest at Rosemary’s will order pizza and have it delivered from Roey’s up the block.
Its ample outdoor seating is critical to its success. It permits, what Suarez calls, “a full second dining room outside. We’ve installed electric heaters on the outside so we can seat people into October or November and open up again in February or March.”
Post-pandemic, it cut down a 16-person communal table in half. “But the floor is well-designed for the pandemic age,” he adds.
Its goal is to attract a “multi-generational audience. We attract several communities coming together to dine under a single roof,” Suarez says.
Besides its neighboring communities, it’s also striving to appeal to the staff of the NYU Langone Hospital complex, which is only ten blocks up First Avenue. It expected a large catering business, but the pandemic has likely curtailed that revenue stream.
It also includes a separate space, Rosemary’s Pantry, which currently is being tapped for extra seating, because of limited capacity due to Covid restrictions. Once the pandemic fades, Rosemary’s Pantry will offer take-out for locals, specializing in fresh pasta, pesto and olive oil.
Rosemary’s East’s menu mirrors that of Rosemary’s West Village, with some slight variations. Its menu includes sourdough pizza, a cacao e pepe pizza and a special PDT PCV (Peter Cooper Village) cocktail, which combines a French 75 and an Aperol Spritz.
Some of its most popular dishes include stringer pizza, but the night I dined there, our server recommended the chicken Milanese or linguine.
It also has a social mission. It donates $1 from certain items to Nazareth Housing, a local non-profit dedicated to eradicating homelessness. Local classes use its community garden during science classes.
While opening, it has been concentrating on serving guests at the restaurant, not on off-premises sales. At this point, it doesn’t offer third-party delivery, curbside pick-up or ordering through mobile apps. Suarez indicates that it will have its own proprietary ordering system once things settle down.
But Rosemary’s East may be a sign of more to come. “We intend to continue growing Rosemary’s brand. It has proven to capture a broad audience and provides a guest experience that fits into many neighborhoods,” Suarez says.
He calls the keys to its future success as “our team, our team and our team. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your employees.”