Top Chef Season 15 winner and former Executive Chef of Michelin-starred Spiaggia Joe Flamm opens his debut restaurant, Rose Mary, with Sancerre Hospitality on April 20 in Chicago’s historic Fulton Market district. Inspired by his Italian heritage and his wife’s native country of Croatia, Rose Mary offers a seasonal menu of rustic yet refined dishes that encapsulate what Flamm has coined “Adriatic drinking food”.
“This restaurant is incredibly personal to me,” says Flamm. “Rose Mary brings together the most important things in my life, and I can’t wait to introduce my hometown of Chicago to it.”
The Rose Mary moniker holds multiple meanings. First, it pays homage to the matriarchs of Flamm’s family, his maternal and paternal grandmothers: Mary and Mary Rose. It is also named for the herb rosemary, which is native to the rocky regions of the Mediterranean and Adriatic. Known as “the dew of the sea,” rosemary grows along both the Italian and Croatian coastlines, and thus represents how the restaurant bridges a gap between two very distinct yet harmonious countries, cultures and cuisines.
Rose Mary features what Flamm calls Adriatic drinking food, which he defines as: “the food you find at lively restaurants and taverns on the side of the road in Croatia. Somewhere that’s casual and fun, with food that’s vibrant, super flavorful, and of course, heavily rooted in Italian technique.”
Indeed, Flamm blends classic and timeless dishes from Italy with the bold and bright flavors found in Croatian cuisine, utilizing a custom charcoal hearth and an abundance of seasonal ingredients to bring his menu to life. Guests can expect dishes like:
● Coal Roasted Beets with kajmak—a traditional creamy cheese from Croatia—pistachio and honey;
● Tortellini Djuvec—“djuvec” refers to a mixture of vegetables cooked down in an earthenware pot called a djuvec—with red pepper, eggplant, preserved zucchini, parmigiano and pine nuts;
● Gnocchi with beef cheek pašticada—pašticada being a traditional Croatian recipe that always involves beef cheeks soaked in wine and sweet fruit—paški sir and basil;
● Crni—the Serbian word for “black”—Risotto with lobster brodo, confit squid and tarragon;
● Pork Ribs Pampanella with chile agrodolce—an Italian recipe that originated in Molise, the town where Joe’s family is from—served with a cabbage and yogurt relish; and
● Grilled Shrimp with buzara sauce—“buzara” being the Croatian word for “stew”, referring to a seafood stew that is cooked on the country’s coast—chives and lemon zest.
Pastry Chef Hillary Grossman, who previously worked at Quiote in Chicago is working closely with Flamm to produce house made lepinja bread and house made gelatos and sorbettos in a variety of flavors like Chocolate Stracciatella, Pistachio Honey, Espresso and Meyer Lemon. Her dessert menu will also feature a Rosewater Fritule with black walnut citrus filling and roasted stone fruit curd.
The beverage program will be driven by wine with a globally influenced list of varietals. Wine Director Sarah Traynor (formerly of Brass Heart, Blackbird) selected a number of labels from Italy and the surrounding Balkan regions, with a lot of attention paid to small, emerging producers who are showcasing organic, biodynamic, and sustainably farmed wines—giving the list more of a fun "wine bar" feel as compared to the structured, more classic programs at Flamm’s former restaurant Spiaggia and Sancerre Hospitality’s first restaurant, BLVD Steakhouse.
Beverage Director Jen Newton offers a variety of craft cocktails highlighting underrepresented Eastern European spirits and local Croatian and Italian beers. Standout cocktails include: the Golden Negroni with Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin, Maraska Kruskovac Pear Brandy, Cocchi Americano, Luxardo and Bitter Bianco and Plum’s The Word with Plantation “3 Stars” White Rum, Maraska Slivovitz Old Plum Brandy, Apologue Persimmon and Grand Marnier. A light and bright Spritz section will round out the list.
Flamm and Sancerre Hospitality partnered with the Los Angeles-based design firm Studio UNLTD to create the interior—the firm’s first project in Chicago. Rose Mary’s design reflects the utilitarian yet celebratory spirit of traditional family-run, age-old taverns in Croatia known as konobas.
Just as Croatian cuisine is informed by the ingredients born of its pure earth, clean air, and abundance of water, the design is inspired by the natural elements of Croatia’s Mediterranean coast. Abundant plant life that references flora from the region and folk-inspired textiles and accessories adorn the space adding a quaint touch. Whitewashed brick walls reference the pebbled beaches along the Adriatic Sea and are accented by moments of red clay and deep, azure blue tilework throughout. Rustic, honey-colored oak millwork and pale stone used on the exposed surfaces draw inspiration from Croatia’s abundant limestone quarries and lends softness and warmth to the space’s airy, indoor-outdoor feel.
Rose Mary seats 130 indoors, including an 18-seat bar and a 6-seat chef’s counter. Later this spring, Rose Mary will open a seasonal sidewalk patio. Rose Mary opens Tuesday, April 20 at 932 W. Fulton Market. Hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.