We’ve been hearing a lot recently about Rosemary’s Enoteca and Trattoria, a beautiful new restaurant in New York’s West Village with a unique twist. Instead of purely relying on a farm-to-table credo, Rosemary’s has upped the ante by building a garden on its roof where it grows zucchini, tomatoes, radishes, and a bevy of herbs. Owner Carlos Suarez, the mind behind Rosemary’s acclaimed West Village neighbour BOBO (also designed by Dekar Designs), completed Rosemary’s garden on May 10, after only a two-day construction. He got help on the design and installation from his buddies at The Brooklyn Grange, who created a commercial organic farm on a Long Island City, Queens rooftop, with another on the way in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Suarez was first introduced to urban agriculture by Brooklyn Grange founder Ben Flanner, who, like Suarez, got his start in finance. Instead of building a career in the field however, Suarez chose to use his business smarts to start a restaurant. He describes himself as a “culinary hobbyist” who fell in love with cooking while in college. In 2007, after a spending a year in the hedge fund world, Suarez started BOBO, which also has a garden, and a beehive, on its roof.
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“The gardens are fun for us to do,” said Suarez. “If we could have a farm, we would, but the garden is the best of both worlds. You get the energy of New York with rural therapy.”Of all the plants grown in Rosemary’s garden so far, the radishes have been the staple crop. The staff has done three radish plantings and recently they hauled 15 pounds from the garden, a sizeable load for a modestly-sized rooftop.
In the kitchen Chef Wade Moises, previously of Mario Batali’s Eataly and Babbo, uses the radish tops in one of Rosemary’s most popular dishes: the orecchiette with homemade sausage and braised radishes. The garden’s pièce de résistance, however, is the “Rooftop Salad,” which every night contains vegetables grown on the trattoria’s roof.
Chef Moises handles most of the gardening. When he arrives in the morning, he’ll work in the kitchen on Rosemary’s sauces before heading upstairs to pick from the garden. When the kitchen closes at night, Moises climbs Rosemary’s interior stairwell to water the plants and enjoy a cold beer on the roof.
It’s not Moise’s first go-around with farming, either. Like Suarez, who finds inspiration from his foodie parents and their vegetable grove in Lucca, Italy, Moise also comes from an agricultural background.The experienced chef spent time learning from farmers in Arizona and worked the kitchen in a restaurant in Apulia, Italy. At that eatery, Moises admired how the Italian owners produced their own olive oil and veggies on-site, in addition to foraging for herbs and buying meat from local ranchers.
Suarez and Moises have teamed up to bring this hyper-local model to the West Village. While they can’t produce everything for the restaurant on its roof, the pair nevertheless utilizes it for its maximum potential. “The goal is to, at the very least, get enough herbs to supply the kitchen with,” says Moises.
For inventory they can’t grow, Suarez and his kitchen staff still maintain close ties with New York farmers.
They’ll soon have some inside help, too. Part of Suarez’s plan for Rosemary’s garden is to invite local students at P.S. 41 up to the roof to learn about agriculture and healthy eating.
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